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An historic naval site on Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands is ship-shape after a clean-up by a DOC led crew.

Date:  12 July 2010

An historic naval site on Moturua Island is ship-shape after a clean-up by a Department of Conservation (DOC) led crew.

American archaeology volunteers Sarah
Stanley-Pauley and Drew Hutchinson

Nearly 70 years after the New Zealand Navy left the bay, the underground bunkers built for strategic purposes during World War II have been cleared of rotten cladding and general rubbish.

Bay of Islands Area Office historic ranger Andrew Blanshard led the team - comprising 10 volunteer archaeology students and lecturers from the Western Wyoming Community College - at the Waiwhapuku Bay site tidy up.

“We cleaned out the radio, generator and mine rooms, which are still in quite good nick because they’re dry," said Andrew. “However, it was a very dirty, mucky job involving wood sludge from rotten floors and cladding. There was also quite a lot of general rubbish and random masonry so it was pretty heavy work.”

Dudley Gardiner, Professor of Archaeology,
Wyoming Community College

A generator provided lights so that the team could safely manoeuvre the hundreds of buckets of debris up and down a ladder during the four days on the island.

The bunkers were part of a Control of Mines Base with housing and other camp facilities, built when minefield were laid in the Bay of Islands during World War II.

The houses were removed after the war, but deep shafts and the Defence Observation Post - built on Hikurangi Pa - remain.

World War II bunkers after a thorough
clean out

“The clean-up has been undertaken in preparation for site interpretation, part of DOC’s ongoing commitment to telling the many historic stories of the Bay,” Andrew said.

“I’d like to think we might be able to open the base to small groups of visitors. A lot are very keen to experience both the World War II history as well as the early Maori history in Hikurangi Pa.”

Andrew said that DOC was grateful to Dr Dudley Gardiner, Professor of Archaeology at the Community College, for bringing a team to New Zealand for the work.

“We’ve been extremely lucky to have an annual visit from Dudley and students at the college for several years now.

"The work they do is rarely the most exciting, from an archaeological point of view, because much of it is either clearing vegetation or cleaning up sites, often in the middle of winter. But then, work on an island in the Bay of Islands is a bit of a treat for anyone, no matter what time of year.”

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