Bastion Point, also known as Kohimarama, is an area of land that overlooks Waitemata Harbour, in Auckland. Originally, the land was occupied by Ngāti Whātua, a large Māori tribe consisting of four sub-tribes that settled in Tāmaki. However, when Western colonisation of New Zealand occurred, the land was ‘bought’ and confiscated by the New Zealand Government for ‘public works and development’.
However, in 1895, with the threat of a Russian attack imminent, the New Zealand Government decided to build a military outpost at Bastion Point. The area of land had a commanding and strategic advantage against any warships entering the harbour below. Once completed in 1886, the fort, which was named Fort Bastion, had two disappearing guns and two six pounders, with underground passages connecting each of the sites together. However, the Russian threat waned by the 1920s and this resulted in the fort being abandoned.
Fort Bastion was reactivated in the 1940s, following the outbreak of World War Two. However, as a memorial had been built over the former artillery storage tunnels, the position of the battery was moved slightly. The fort was then fitted with twelve pounder guns, which were later replaced with six pounders, and two guns at water level (where the Tamaki Yacht Club now sits). A large boom that linked Torpedo Bay with Bastion Point was also placed across the harbour to prevent enemy submarines from reaching Auckland. The last things to be added to the renovated fort were an anti-aircraft battery, three searchlight emplacements, an observation post, a radar station and a camp to house the expanding military personnel required to man the new installations.
Soon after the war, Fort Bastion was abandoned once again. Over the years some sections of the site were demolished to make way for a memorial garden. The remaining parts of the fort fell into a state of disrepair and were gradually lost as the surrounding bush shrouded them. The remainder of the fort survived because little development work went on in the area owing to territory disputes that eventually culminated in the 1970s. Fierce arguments over the ownership of the land arose as the Ngāti Whātua tribe wanted the area handing back. The tribe did manage to occupy the land for five-hundred and seven days at one point, but the New Zealand army were sent in to forcibly remove the protesters. In the end, two-hundred and twenty-two of them were arrested. Despite the eviction, though, the land was eventually placed under Māori ownership in the 1980s. It was handed to the Ngāti Whātua tribe, along with some financial compensation. Since then, little interest in the fort has been shown; therefore, it remains neglected and forgotten.
Our Version of Events
After a fairly successful day exploring Auckland, we decided to meet up with another explorer who knew about some old tunnels that existed over near Kohimarama – one of the city’s suburbs. Apparently, very few people know about their existence because they are well hidden in the bush, so it seemed like a good idea to go check them out.
It didn’t take too long to drive across the city to Kohimarama. From there, we ditched the cars and climbed over a small fence to get into the bush. At the tree borderline, you could just make out the remains of an old concrete staircase, but it was very easy to miss if you happened just to be passing by. We followed the staircase, which was harder to ascend than we initially thought due to the dense vegetation. The stairs started to disappear after a while too; they were absolutely caked in moist earth and dead foliage. The climb continued until we reached a large block of concrete that was heavily worn and cracked. Then we traversed slightly to the right to get behind it, to reach a small cave-like opening.
The portal to the old tunnels wasn’t what we were expecting at all. It looked very similar to the coal mine we found in Bishop Auckland – bloody tiny! Nevertheless, our new friend, René, told us that the tunnels were inside, so, leading the way, he cracked on and disappeared into the hole. We followed him, with our fingers tightly crossed in hope that what we were about to find was going to be worth it. The first few metres were tough going with bottles of beer in hand, as it was tight and muddy. After that, though, the cave started to transform into a crude concrete tunnel.
The concrete tunnel led us into a large chamber that was supported by three large columns and a long metal girder. We crossed the room quickly because it was incredibly hot inside, and headed into another passage that gradually turned to the right. At the end of it, we discovered a collapsed section of the fort and a small room to the right, behind an iron door. And that was all there was to see, unfortunately. However, even though the explore turned out to be a short one, it was still cool to be able to stand in the remnants of Fort Bastion. It always amazes us how this sort of stuff manages to survive, despite being abandoned for well over seventy years.
Explored with Nillskill, Nadita and René.