By Lloyd Burr
A huge chunk of Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula will be transformed into a public reserve with historical military sites restored and ancient Maori Pas unearthed.
Seventy-five hectares of the northern tip of the peninsula, know as Watts Peninsula or Te Motu Kairangi, has been in the hands of the Defence Force for decades and today was handed over to allow for its development into a public reserve.
Politicians and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown joined local iwi for today’s announcement at Fort Balance, a military instalment that was build to ward off the threat of a Russian invasion in the 1880s and a Japanese invasion during World War Two.
Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Chris Finlayson says it is a very special day for Wellington.
“Watts Peninsula should be protected, preserved and developed as a distinctive national destination that brings together the natural environment, national heritage, recreation, culture and the arts.
“I would like to think that the military sites would be preserved and the pa sites will be unearthed…I see it as a place for walking, possibly cycling, a place for visiting our military history and the history of the early iwi of the area.”
Mr Finlayson says there’s a rumour that the original vanishing gun from the fort is still around and says he will have to find it, get it restored and have it returned to the site.
Sir Ngatata Love from the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust says he is excited by the new development and the land has an amazing story to tell from so far back.
“This day will live in the sense that we have now made an important decision for the capital city of New Zealand,” he says.
“When you look at it, there are very few options in capital cities in countries like this where we can make such a major decision and look forward to preserving both the history and the future of our nation.”
The land was occupied by iwi since “the earliest of times” and Mr Finlayson says Taranaki Whanui, who have a kaitiaki (guardianship) role, will be involved in all consultation on all future developments of the peninsula.
“Their involvement is absolutely essential. As part of their settlement, they acquired the old Shelley Bay Air Force Base and have some fantastic idea for its redevelopment,” Mr Finlayson says.
The development of area will take decades, with Mr Finlayson saying it will “probably be after my time” before a finished reserve exists.
A special reference group will be set up for initial talks, followed by the formation of a high-level committee chaired by Sir Ngatata to create a plan for the development of the reserve.
Mr Finlayson says the reserve will be “every bit as impressive as Stanley Park in Vancouver or the Presidio in San Francisco”.
source: newshub archive