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Fort Takapuna

History of Fort Takapuna

The Royal New Zealand Navy’s real association with Narrow Neck dates from 1963, when the Training establishment, HMNZS Tamaki, moved into some surplus Army space.

At that time there was still a strong army presence, in fact during the flag raising ceremony on 26 September, of what was to become the Administration Block, just inside the main entrance, was still divided into flats and the slightly bemused residents watched the ceremony from their windows.

It was, however, a naval threat that caused this fort to be constructed.  It was part of a series of defences erected at the main ports, to defend them against a possible raid by an enemy cruiser.

The result of such a raid was highlighted in a report published in The New Zealander, the major newspaper of the day, when it reported that Auckland had been shelled by a Russian cruiser, much damage had been done to the business district and Russian sailors had landed and looted shops.

In those days before the telephone and mass communications, this report caused considerable alarm and many thought the Empire would go to war.

That is until the phonetics of the name of the Russian ship were realised – it read “Case of Whisky”.

The Navy first came to Fort Takapuna in 1927.  By that time the fort was obsolete and not required by the Army.

It was used to house ammunition for cruisers.  Previously it had been stored at Mount Victoria and then North Head, but by then the storage of explosives at Mount Victoria was considered unacceptable by both the Defence Department and the residents, and the North Head magazines were required by the Army.

In addition to actually storing the explosives, there was a requirement to test various parts of the ammunition, and a proofing building was constructed alongside (under the Morton Bay Fig Tree).

As had been experienced from the first days of the fort, there were several drawbacks to using this facility. It is readily prone to flooding – even with the best of maintenance.

It was with much rejoicing that in 1936, the Navy moved its explosives to a new, purpose-built facility in a sparsely populated area of the North Shore – Kauri Point.

While the Navy moved, the Army remained.

During the Second World War there was much activity in the area surrounding the fort and over on the southern side of the playing field, a monitoring station for the fixed anti-submarine defences of Auckland – Station Puna – was built.

With the end of the war, the Navy again vacated the area returning in 1963.

At that time the old quarantine station on Motuihe Island, which had been built around the turn of the century was in urgent need of serious maintenance and rebuilding.  With all factors taken into consideration, it was decided that Navy would share the surrounding facilities with the Army.

Although there were periodic conflicts of interest, the relationship was generally satisfactory. With periodic reorganisations of the Army, its presence was gradually reduced, until at last only the Officers’ mess remained an Army facility, although run entirely by the Navy.

For most of the time the fort itself was locked up, but for a short time it was used as a recreation space for some of the senior trainees.

Over the years there were several efforts to vest ownership of this fort to the local authority, but for a variety of reasons, this was not possible until 2000.

Background – Narrow Neck Camp / HMNZS Tamaki

Jan 1886

Land purchased from Robert Adam Mozley Stark for £17,000. This transaction was the subject of some rumours of scandal as Mr Stark had been unable to sell ten acres of the land in October the previous year for £3,000.


Fort Takapuna constructed, comprising two 6-inch (152mm) breach loading guns and two 6pdr Nordenfelts, plus associated magazines, accommodation etc.
20th Century


Utilised as a depot for Volunteers and later Territorial Force elements.


During the First World War the main camp is constructed for use as a recruit depot, including Māori and Pacific Island Units of 1NZEF.


German POWs formerly held on Motuihe Island held at the camp, prior to repatriation to Germany.


Hospital built for influenza epidemic (used as NTG buildings and OTS Classrooms 1970s and 1980s).

Post 1919

Camp used as HQ for Artillery and Territorial Units.


6-inch guns scrapped.


Navy uses the magazines and fort for storage of ammunition and as a testing facillity.


AA Battery stationed at the camp and artillery barracks completed.


Two 4-inch (102mm) guns installed on right boundary to cover Examination anchorage. Two 4-inch (102mm) guns installed on boundary at centre of camp to cover Rangitoto channel. Officers and Troop Messes constructed.


48 new buildings constructed, including hospital, recreation huts, stores, messes, canteens and cinema as well as parade grounds and roads.

2 x 4 inch (102mm) guns installed on boundary at centre of camp originally from the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand.


Four 4-inch guns are removed – two to North Head and two to the Pacific Islands.


Post 1945

Was used as headquarters for Territorial Force units and accommodation for Regular Force personnel in Auckland area.


Narrow Neck Military Camp renamed Fort Cautley  – continued the name with vacation of the Army from, North Head.


The Royal New Zealand Navy relocated HMNZS Tamaki from Motuihe Island – flag shift 26 September. Base Jointly operated. Additional accommodation moved in to provide for Basic Common Trainees. Work was completed by Army Engineers.


‘New’ accommodation upgraded.

Officers Mess extended.

Work undertaken by Army Engineers.


First RNZN units move to Ngataringa Bay . Basic Common Trainees to North Yard HMNZS Philomel.


12 March, a judgement from Justice Anderson found all Defence land at Narrow Neck was a reserve as defined in S.2 of the Reserves Act, 1977.
21st Century


On 26 February, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Bill received Royal Assent. The Bill was enacted and the transfer of the land effected. However, due to tenants requiring 42 days notice the whole site was not handed over to Department of Conservation until 20 March, 2000.

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