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North Head (New Zealand)

Coordinates: 36°49′40″S 174°48′43″E / 36.827751°S 174.81205°E / -36.827751; 174.81205
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North Head
Maungauika / North Head
North Head with the flanks of Rangitoto Island and the Hauraki Gulf beyond
Highest point
Elevation50 m (160 ft)
Coordinates36°49′40″S 174°48′43″E / 36.827751°S 174.81205°E / -36.827751; 174.81205
Native nameMaungauika (Māori)
LocationNorth Island, New Zealand
Volcanic arc/beltAuckland volcanic field
North Head seen from Tāmaki Drive to the south. Mount Victoria is seen to the west.
The BL 8 inch Mk VII of the South Battery, a well-preserved example of a disappearing gun

North Head (Māori: Maungauika; officially Maungauika and sometimes referred to as Maungauika / North Head)[1][2][3] is a volcano and Tūpuna Maunga (ancestral mountain) forming a headland at the east end of the Waitematā Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand, in the suburb of Devonport.[4] Known for its sweeping views over the harbour and the Hauraki Gulf, since 1885 the head was mainly used by the military as a coastal defence installation, which left a network of accessible old bunkers and tunnels as its legacy, forming part of the attraction. The site was protected as part of Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park in 1972[5] and listed as a Category I historic place in 2001.[6] As part of a 2014 Treaty of Waitangi claim settlement the volcanic cone was officially named Maungauika and the reserve unofficially renamed Maungauika / North Head Historic Reserve.[1]



Maungauika in the Māori language means "The Mountain of Uika", referring to a Tāmaki Māori ancestor thought to have lived here 800 years ago.[7][3] The name North Head comes from the point's location at the northern entrance to the Waitematā Harbour.[8]



Māori usage


The original scoria cone has been substantially altered, first by marine erosion and later by the various generations of people who have occupied the headland. It was first used by Māori, and the Tainui waka was reputed to have put ashore close by at what is now Torpedo Bay. The Tainui people named the spring 'Takapuna', which was later used for the nearby beach.[9] Some early photographs of the area show that they used to work gardens on the hill's lower slopes, though the fortifications of other cones in the area seem absent. European visitors during the 1850s have also described a settlement at the foot of the hill with gardens and racks for the drying of fish.[citation needed]

Military use

One of Maungauika / North Head's tunnels

North Head provided the settlement of Auckland with its first pilot station for the guiding of ships into the harbour. In 1878, the area was then set aside as a public reserve – with the stipulation that if necessary, it could be re-appropriated for the New Zealand Army to use for defence purposes. In 1885, this then became reality. When the Russian scare was at its height, forts were built in various places around Auckland to deter the Russians.[10]

The defences consisted of three gun batteries: North Battery facing over the Rangitoto Channel, South Battery facing over the inner harbour, and Summit/Cautley Battery on the top of the hill. These first fortifications were hastily constructed, but later expanded and strengthened over 25 years by convict labour of up to 40 prisoners living in a barracks on the hilltop. The prisoners added extensive tunnel systems, underground store rooms, and various observation posts. The armaments of the fort included 64-pounder Armstrong disappearing guns, searchlights, and a remote-detonated naval minefield across the inner harbour to Bastion Point. None of the armaments were ever used in anger. A four-gun memorial saluting battery of 18-pounder World War I field guns was used, among other occasions, to salute Queen Elizabeth II on her visit in 1953.[11]

In the 1930s, part of the fort received modernisation. Then during World War II, it became the administrative centre of Auckland's coast defenses, with the regimental headquarters buildings still surviving today. The coastal defences were scrapped in 1950, though one of the disappearing guns remained behind – obsolete and too difficult for the scrap merchant who bought it to disassemble and remove.[12] After the army had left, the area was turned into a reserve again, though the New Zealand Navy kept an area around the summit for a training school.[citation needed]

Modern use


Since the Navy school left the summit area in 1996, the Department of Conservation has administered the area as a reserve, which provides for beautiful walks along the waterline or onto the summit with good views of Rangitoto Island and Auckland due to the prominent height of the hill. Also popular are exploratory forays to the gun emplacements and into the tunnel system, which is open to the public to a substantial degree, though torches are needed to explore it.[citation needed]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were reports of strange chemical smells and rumours of hidden caverns underneath the hill. Some tales even told of aeroplanes hidden in secret storerooms. As it was feared that old ammunition was decaying in forgotten parts of the fortifications, a major investigation was started, involving documentary research, geological tests and substantial exploratory digging was done around the hill. The research however, found little of new import.[11]

Treaty settlement


In the 2014 Treaty of Waitangi settlement between the Crown and the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau collective of 13 Auckland iwi and hapu (also known as the Tāmaki Collective), ownership of the 14 Tūpuna Maunga (ancestral mountains) of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, was vested to the collective, including the volcano officially named Maungauika. The legislation specified that the land be held in trust "for the common benefit of Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau and the other people of Auckland". The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority or Tūpuna Maunga Authority (TMA) is the co-governance organisation established to administer the 14 Tūpuna Maunga. Auckland Council manages the Tūpuna Maunga under the direction of the TMA.[13][14][15][3]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Place name detail: 54533". New Zealand Gazetteer. New Zealand Geographic Board. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  2. ^ Council, Auckland. "Maungauika / North Head - maunga in Auckland". Auckland Council. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Maungauika". www.maunga.nz. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014 registration guideline" (PDF). Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  5. ^ "Department of Conservation - North Head Historic Reserve" (PDF).
  6. ^ "The New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero - North Head - Takapuna".
  7. ^ Cameron, Ewen; Hayward, Bruce; Murdoch, Graeme (2008). A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region's Natural and Historical Heritage (rev. ed.). Random House New Zealand. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-86962-1513.
  8. ^ "North Head". New Zealand Gazetter. Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  9. ^ Manson, Terry; Pearson, David (2009). "New home in an old haven" (PDF). Journal of Museums Aotearoa (33): 32. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  10. ^ Veart, David (2011). "North Head: Engineering Auckland's Victorian Defences". In La Roche, John (ed.). Evolving Auckland: The City's Engineering Heritage. Wily Publications. pp. 220–222. ISBN 9781927167038.
  11. ^ a b Information provided on various plaques around North Head (set up by the DOC)
  12. ^ Disappearing Guns Archived 2016-08-07 at the Wayback Machine (from the Royal New Zealand Artillery Old Comrades Association)
  13. ^ "Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014 No 52 (as at 12 April 2022), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". www.legislation.govt.nz. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  14. ^ Maude, Simon (13 March 2015). "A mutual responsibility". North Shore Times. p. 3.
  15. ^ Council, Auckland. "Tūpuna Maunga significance and history". Auckland Council. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  • Volcanoes of Auckland: A Field Guide. Hayward, B.W.; Auckland University Press, 2019, 335 pp. ISBN 0-582-71784-1.

Media related to North Head, New Zealand at Wikimedia Commons