The MOTAT Society trip to Fort Stony Batter on Waiheke Island took place on 27th February - a beautiful sunny Saturday. Although we were scheduled to leave on the 10:00am ferry, some of our team of 18 were so keen they caught the 9:30 ferry, meeting the rest of the group at the Matiatia, Waiheke ferry terminal.
Waiheke is home to Ngāti Paoa who arrived on the waka Te Aroha. The original Māori name for Waiheke was Te Motu-arai-roa, 'the long sheltering island' but at the time the first European visitors arrived it was known as Motu-Wai-Heke, 'island of trickling waters'.
From the Onetangi turnoff we continued along a gravel road for 20 minutes. Evelyn then dropped us off for our 15-minute walk to the Fort Stony Batter entrance – a stroll along a farm road, through heritage Volcanic Boulder Fields with views out to Great Barrier. We were met by Tim Moon, an archaeologist who has taken up a concession lease with the Department of Conservation to provide tours of the facility, while also undertaking restoration work to ensure that the history of the area is preserved.
The story of Fort Stony Batter is well documented, suffice to say that it is considered a major feat of engineering undertaken in a remote location and under the secrecy of wartime conditions. Three gun emplacements were built as part of the defence complex to protect Auckland from German and Japanese invasion during World War II, mirroring developments at North Head and Rangitoto Island. The guns were never fired in anger.
Tim is a mine of information and a most genial host. He took us down into the tunnels (almost a kilometre long and extraordinarily wide) and showed us through the various components including gun pits, ammunition stores, plotting room, and engine room.
Despite descending over 100 steps into the bowels of the complex, the last tunnel took us on the level out into the sunshine in one of the bush areas that are also part of the Department’s protected area. From here we walked back to meet the bus and Evelyn then took us to Man O’ War vineyard for lunch.
Waiheke is known as New Zealand’s “Island of Wine,” and there are 38 vineyards on the island. The vineyards at Man O’ War Bay - named in the 1700s for the naval warships, whose masts were crafted from the magnificent kauris growing there - has 4500 acres, 1000 cattle, and 4000 sheep.
After a delightful lunch at New Zealand’s only beachfront wine tasting experience, we returned to the ferry for a leisurely trip back to the city, the perfect end to a tiring but wonderful day.
-By Alan Curtis
Photos courtesy Robyn & Richard Brown, Tonni Janmaat and Makyla Curtis