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Helen Clark Speech - Guns of Motutapu

Monday 24 April 2006

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Guns of Motutapu
DVD launch

Auckland War Memorial Museum

7.20 pm, Monday 24 April 2006

Thank you for the invitation to speak here tonight at the launch of the "Guns of Motutapu" DVD.

Tonight's launch is timely, coming as it does on the eve of ANZAC Day, as Motutapu was a significant link in Auckland's network of coastal defence installations.

Tonight is also a good opportunity to promote the wonderful work of the Motutapu Restoration Trust. It is now over ten years into its fifty-year vision to restore and make accessible the ecological, historical, and cultural treasures of the island, so close to the city, but tucked in behind and less known than its much younger sister Rangitoto.

The DVD being launched tonight promotes heritage conservation on Motutapu. It does that by using some of the most modern computer technology on offer.

The DVD also tells the stories of the men and women who served on Motutapu, staffing the guns set up to help protect Auckland during World War Two.

Overall, Motutapu has a very rich geological, Maori, and colonial history, and that too is portrayed on the DVD.

In 1921 Motutapu was rejected as a site for coastal defence guns, but thirteen years later New Zealand Defence Chiefs and the Committee of Imperial Defence agreed that a battery should be based there.

Construction started in 1936, costing more than £150,000. More work was done on it during the war itself.

The Motutapu Counter Bombardment Battery had gun emplacements, searchlights, barracks, observation posts, machine gun posts, and a network of storage bunkers.

Following the war, the battery was used for training and live firing exercises, before being decommissioned in 1957.

The battery was the biggest of Auckland's coastal defences, and it was the main counter-bombardment battery until a larger battery was built at Whangaparoa in 1943-44.

Some of the soldiers who staffed these guns are with us tonight. Former soldiers have been a great help to the project team as it has worked to recreate images of the battery.

Major Derek Thorburn, for example, was in his twenties during WWII and later became commander on Motutapu. He is one who has worked with the project to add a significant amount of character and personal recollection for the DVD.

Director/producer Chris Keenan has been re-creating the coastal defence network of the Hauraki Gulf for the past few years as 3D virtual reality on his computers in Devonport.

The Department of Conservation Historian Dave Veart has provided much historical detail for the model.

The heritage conservation work and other major restoration projects on the island are very exciting.

Motutapu, Tiritiri-Matangi, and other Gulf islands are now supported by enthusiastic trusts and volunteers, committed to restoring their natural and historic heritage.

We all owe a great debt to the Motutapu Restoration Trust, and to the other Gulf island trusts for the wonderful work they do on behalf of us and all future generations.

The vision of the Trust for Motutapu lines up with that of the Department of Conservation and the government for the island.

The vision is both to safeguard the island's unique heritage, and plan for future education and recreation, public access, a farm experience close to the city, and the rebirth of the forest ecosystem on the island.

Once again, thank you to the Motutapu Restoration Trust, trustees, and the many volunteers who are helping with this grand project.

May this DVD further increase public interest in your work for the island.


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