Evidence of hidden tunnels at north head maungauika

Evidence of secret tunnels & ammunition at North Head / Maungauika

First, let’s get our facts straight. The current official NZ Government stance on the presence of secret/hidden tunnels or deteriorating ammunition at North Head / Maungauika is that they do not exist.

🤔 But here's proof that they do:

  1. 2016 letter from Matt Watson, geophysicist, ScanTec
  2. 1992 recording of Bob Tizard, Minister of Defence 1987-1990
  3. 1991 North Shore Times article
  4. Stories & eyewitness accounts
  5. Photographic evidence

If you don't have time to read everything, feel free to skip to The Smoking Gun.

Evidence of the NZ Government's official position on the matter

Government 'ownership' of the maunga has transferred over the years from the New Zealand Defence Force, to the Department of Conservation, to the Maunga Authority. They all deny allegations of hidden tunnels and/or decaying ammunition. 

This message has been repeated by both the NZDF and DoC numerous times. Some examples are outlined below.

  1. 2022 Stuff article from senior journalist Eugene Bingham
  2. 2016 letter from the NZ Navy to Martin Butler + 2023 OIA responses  
  3. 1989 letter from NZ Navy to the Devonport Borough Council
  4. 1983 ministerial minutes

1. This 2022 Stuff article reveals the Government's most up-to-date position in an investigative report from senior journalist Eugene Bingham (very comprehensive, balanced, recommended reading). Excerpts below:

  • "A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation, which took over management of the land from Defence in 1990, told Stuff: 'Based on previous investigations carried out by Defence and subsequently by DOC there is no reason to believe hidden tunnels … exist.'"
    • "After an initial query to Defence about its position, a spokesperson for the military replied: 'The NZDF maintains there are no hidden tunnels in North Head.'”
    • “'DOC stands by its previous remarks ... including the extensive work done by David Veart, a former DOC staff member,' said a DOC statement. Veart, an archaeologist, carried out an investigation from 1992-1994 and concluded: 'There are no hidden tunnels at North Head. As a result … there is no ammunition stored in these alleged tunnels.'” 

    2. 2016 letter from the NZ Navy to Martin Butler (author of Tunnel Vision).

    • "there is no information within NZDF files that indicate that there are tunnel systems, or entrances to tunnels, below North Head which are not already marked on maps in the public domain..."
    • "there is no record of any ammunition remaining in North Head..."

    OIA requests filed in 2023 resulted in similar responses:

    The official position has changed

    The NZDF stance in 1989 (and prior) was actually that there are sealed tunnels under North Head. Despite the above letters, it seems there were, in fact, NZDF files indicating sealed tunnel systems. You can see proof of these below.


    NZDF letter stating there are sealed tunnels at North Head

    3. (Above) 1989 letter from NZ Navy to the Devonport Borough Council from Commodore Hunter AKA Commodore Auckland (PDF 824KB).

    • "There are sealed tunnels on North Head;"
    • "There are no records of anything (ammunition or anything else) stored in North Head tunnels;" 

    ministerial minutes

    4. (Above) 1983 ministerial minutes (PDF 3.7MB) also show Navy Historian Lieutenant Commander Peter Dennerly confirming the existence of tunnels and that they had been "sealed relatively recently".

    Interestingly, the tunnel maps mentioned in the excerpt above are no longer "readily available". Martin Butler tried to retrieve these during his book research and they could not be found in the archives with the reference numbers provided.

    Martin Butler's research & incomplete archives

    On 12 August 2015 Mike Wesley-Smith interviewed Deputy Head of Navy Commodore Dean McDougall on TV3 (now Three). He was the last commander of the Navy training school at the summit of North Head / Maungauika between 1993-1996. Excerpt below:

    Q: Right so the Defence force has acknowledged there are sealed tunnels – how many ball park, is there a huge sealed tunnel complex?

    A: Look the tunnel complex up there is quite extensive and it’s from my knowledge there is three sealed compartments off the tunnels but they were all tested.

    Q: How large would those spaces be?

    A: Well if you go into the tunnels now that gives you a good idea, they’re about six foot high and some of the spaces are probably about the size of this room here, so it was a great network, there were a lot of soldiers working up there at the time, but I’m sorry I can’t tell you there is something there.

    Following this interview, Martin got in touch with NZDF headquarters in Wellington. A face-to-face meeting soon took place in Wellington and Martin was offered the opportunity to review their archival material with his own eyes, at both the Wellington and Devonport archives. Martin, of course, accepted. Days later they withdrew their offer, stating that they would conduct the research themselves.

    The NZDF investigation into their own archives took two years—after which they told Martin they had no records regarding tunnels under North Head / Maungauika predating the Commodore Hunter letter from 1989. What took so long? Were they stalling the investigation, destroying evidence, or maybe even both?

    Coincidentally, there are no Devonport Borough Council records of any services (plumbing, electrical, etc.) at North Head / Maungauika before 1989 either. Martin Butler found that a plan has also gone missing from the National Archives building in Wellington that should have shown “cable routes”. This was extensively researched under the direction of the Chief Archivist.

    It seems rather incredible that the NZDF have no information about a military site that was under military control from the 1870s until 1990 (120 years). That is, until you learn that the NZDF admitted to destroying military records of North Head during the 1992-2001 Earnshaw court case. They clearly did an extensive job, but the question is: why?

      Evidence for hidden tunnels and ammunition within North Head / Maungauika

      The evidence for hidden tunnels and ammunition is strong. I've already mentioned the navy letter from 1989 and ministerial from 1983, proving that at one point, the NZDF were happy to admit the tunnels existed.

      Other evidence for hidden tunnels includes:

      1. 2016 letter from Matt Watson, geophysicist, ScanTec
      2. 1992 recording of Bob Tizard, Minister of Defence 1987-1990
      3. 1991 North Shore Times article
      4. Stories & eyewitness accounts
      5. Photographic evidence

      1. A 2016 letter from Matt Watson, a geophysicist from ScanTec. In 2012, with permission from DOC, Martin Butler enlisted Matt Watson to perform an independent survey using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Excerpts below:

      • "There are a large number [of] features that are clearly man-made, and have the characteristics of tunnels."
      • "These features are not linked to the current (open) network of tunnels, indicating that they have been blocked off at some stage in the past."

        2. A 1992 recording of a phone call with Bob Tizard, who was Minister of Defence from 1987-1990. In a conversation with John Earnshaw (who was filming a documentary and investigating North Head at the time), Tizard is recorded saying there was deteriorating ammunition underneath North Head.

        • “I don’t think there is any argument about this deteriorating ammunition. That’s why the place was sealed initially – they had the choice of methods of disposal, and they took the cheapest, and they just sealed the tunnels.” - Bob Tizard, Minster of Defence from 1987-1990.
        • Click here for a transcript of the phone call recording (PDF 3.15MB)

          3. (Above) In a 1991 North Shore Times article, Bob Tizard had made similar comments:

          • "The very act of trying to break through the concrete could set it off."
          In the same North Shore Times article, Doug Patterson, CBE, MBE, former chief executive of National Airways Corporation revealed correspondence received from Bob Tizard regarding the North Head tunnels and what they contain, which stated:
          • "A lot of work has been done and was stopped only in the extreme stages when decaying ammunition was encountered..."
          • "...through Commodore Auckland it is stated that the ammunition is dangerous and further investigation cannot be carried out..."
          • The article ends with a frightening quote from Mr Patterson, "Mr Tizard's letters indicate that the defence authorities now concede the tunnels exist despite earlier denials and confirm that they contain dangerous and deteriorating ammunition."

            The smoking gun

            Remember Commodore Hunter's letter to Devonport Borough Council from 1989? In writing, we have Commodore Hunter (AKA Commodore Auckland) confirming to the people of Devonport that there are sealed tunnels, but that the NZDF do not know what's in them.

            The North Shore Times article above, however, reveals that Commodore Hunter told the Minister of Defence (via Lieutenant General John Mace), that there is decaying ammunition in the tunnels and that it is dangerous. So dangerous in fact, that further investigation cannot be carried out due to the risks involved.

            All this lines up with the witness accounts from those in the area at the time.

            4. Stories of secret tunnels from eyewitnesses & early explorers

            While there are 14 witness accounts on the page linked above, some 60 eyewitness accounts & affidavits have been presented in court to further the investigation. All of these have been officially disregarded as "tricks of memory".

            aerial photograph of tunnel

            5. (Above) Pictured is an aerial photograph discovered during John Earnshaw's investigation in the 1990's. What mystery would be complete without a grainy black and white photograph?

            Some investigators believe these photos to be evidence of tunnels at North Head. Tunnels with entrances even big enough for vehicle access. Of course, these tunnels are no longer visible on the mountain. Sealed up and hidden, you might say.

            photo evidence north head tunnel

              But that's not all

              While some of the strongest evidence for sealed/hidden tunnels & decaying ammunition under North Head / Maungauika is outlined above, there's a lot more where that came from.

              Martin Butler's book Tunnel Vision goes into the utmost detail, including the stonewalling he, and others, are subject to when trying to retrieve supposedly 'public' information or deal with NZ Government departments that are supposed to be in service to the people of New Zealand. Any further investigation has effectively been blocked since the conclusive results of the ground penetrating radar work confirmed the existence of hidden tunnels in 2012. 

              The fact is, nobody knows with 100% certainty what’s under the mountain. Evidence of a large tunnel network is clear, but excavation of and access to the tunnels is required to find out what lies within. One thing is for sure—there's enough evidence on this page alone to warrant a more thorough investigation than those that have occurred in the past.

              Perhaps eventually all will be revealed—one way or another.

              Uncover more of the mystery:

              1. History of North Head / Maungauika
              2. Stories & Eyewitness Accounts
              3. Artillery & Guns
              4. Gas Testing at North Head / Maungauika
              5. Lost Boeing 1 Aircraft (B&W Seaplanes)
              6. List of Official Investigations into North Head / Maungauika