About Torpedo Bay

Torpedo Bay – Te Hau Kapua has attracted people through time and it’s no wonder why.

Its position at the mouth of the Waitematā Harbour was long ago recognised as an excellent vantage point for defence.

It also provides spectacular views for modern day café patrons and picnickers.

Tucked in the South West base of Maungauika – North Head, Torpedo Bay offers shelter, both from prospective enemy fire as well as from winds off the harbour.

The fertile, free draining volcanic soil was as attractive to the first settlers from Polynesia as it is to the modern inhabitants of Devonport’s waterfront villas.

Read more about the history of the Torpedo Bay site up to the present day.

Torpedo Bay and North Head, 1973

Timeline

Tradition tells us Kupe, the great navigator, landed here in 950.

He gave it the name Te Hau Kapua – cloud carried along by wind.

1150

Toi Te Hautahi came to Te Hau Kapua. His grandson, Uika, settled on the hill above, so giving it the name Maungauika (Uika’s hill). It would later become known as North Head.

1350

Chief Hoturoa landed here in the Tainui Waka, part of the Great Fleet of seven waka. A hundred years later there were four volcanic cone pa sites in the area. For the next 300 years, Ngati Paoa and Ngapuhi inhabited the area at different times.

1450

There were four volcanic cone pa in the area: Takarunga – Mt Victoria, Takararo – Mt Cambria, Takamaiwaho and Kurae a Tura – Duder’s Hill.
19th Century

1827

Dumont D’Urville landed L’Astrolabe in the bay. He wrote “disappointed in finding the area unpopulated”.

1835

Descendants of the Takapuna people came back to live in the area.

1858

George Beddoes established a shipbuilding yard under Maungauika – North Head.

1860

A Naval Artillery Volunteer Corps with responsibility for harbour defence was established at Devonport.

Read More

1863

Outbreak of war in the Waikato saw the people of Te Hau Kapua – Torpedo Bay leave Hau Kapua overnight by waka.

1867

The New Zealand Torpedo Corps formed No. 2 Company of the Permanent Militia. They had responsibility for construction and maintenance of harbour mine defences.

1878

The first of the ‘Russian Scares”. There was a real and present fear of the invasion and dominance of the Imperial Russian Navy.

Torpedo Defence – “A field of submarine mines should be laid across the harbour in the most convenient situation to prevent an enemy running at full speed past the batteries and up the harbour, to a position out of range of our guns where he could fire into Auckland”.

1885

The submarine mining station at Torpedo Bay – so named because mines were called torpedoes then – was designed by LT Col. Tudor Boddam. A small section (0.06 ha) of land at the South West base of Maungauika – North Head was deemed the perfect location for a mining station.
20th Century

1904-1907

The Torpedo Bay Depot was operational for a mere three years. Three strings of electro-contact mines were able to be deployed across the harbour, however, it is not believed any mines were laid during this time.

1904-1905

The Russo-Japanese War saw the total defeat of the Russian Navy in the Pacific thus ending any naval threat to New Zealand by Russia.

1907

The submarine mining programme was abandoned and all equipment that was salvable was disposed of. The mining cable was used for telephone cable in Auckland.

1914-1918

The yard was used as accommodation and some of the buildings converted into detention cells. The most famous prisoner was Count Felix von Luckner who was held in a cell for one night after his recapture in 1917.

1920s

The wharf was rebuilt and buildings refurbished. The site was used for Army stores and unloading ammunition for North Head. In 11926 the main building was refurbished as a drill hall.

1930s

The last of the mines and gun cotton were disposed of.

1939-1945

The yard remained in use as an Army store. The Army launch Bombardier was based here and used to supply personnel and stores to and from the various islands.

1958

The site was officially handed over to the Royal New Zealand Navy.

1963

With relocation of HMNZS Tamaki to Narrow Neck from Motuihe Island the sail training whalers were moored at the wharf at Torpedo Bay.

1960-1999

Torpedo Bay was used by the Sea Cadets, The RNZN Sailing Club and the RNZN Band.
21st Century

2000-2009

Torpedo Bay is used by the RNZN Band.

2010

The National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy moves from its site at Spring Street, Devonport to Torpedo Bay and in October is officially opened by Prime Minister John Key.

2020

Restoration of the 19th Century Loaded Mine Store is completed. New galleries and a modern learning space are opened to the public.