Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson today announced the establishment of a 76 hectare reserve for the people of Wellington and New Zealand on the iconic Miramar Peninsula.
The new reserve area, known as Watts Peninsula, is a prominent Wellington landmark at the northern tip of the Miramar Peninsula and a historically significant part of New Zealand.
Mr Finlayson made the announcement at Fort Balance, a military installation on the peninsula. Local MPs Peter Dunne, Ohariu, and Rahui Katene, Te tai Tonga, as well as Wellington Mayor Celie Wade-Brown were also in attendance.
“I am delighted to announce that Watts Peninsula will be protected as a place of national significance for all New Zealanders,” Mr Finlayson said. “We now have the opportunity to preserve and regenerate it as a space for future generations to enjoy. The site will be protected as a distinctive national destination with cultural and recreational potential.”
The peninsula has been regarded as strategically important since the early days of Māori occupation and contains a number of archaeological areas important to Māori and pakeha.
The land is currently owned by the Defence Force and is home to a number of historic military gun emplacements, pa sites and former ammunition magazines.
Work is under way to develop the land as a public reserve.
Reserve status will retain the land in public ownership and also ensure the area receives full heritage protection, Mr Finlayson said.
In addition it will enable the preservation of indigenous flora and fauna, such as native orchids, skinks and little blue penguins.
Mr Finlayson said he was grateful for the work done by several groups to ensure Watts Peninsula retained its unique character.
“There has been strong community interest in protecting the land for future generations and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the debate including the local community, iwi and advocates for Miramar like Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor who have done so much for the area.”
“In the future there will be opportunities to explore ideas for Watts Peninsula and to develop a vision to create an area that combines its national significance and layers of history with opportunities for cultural, recreational and arts events,” Mr Finlayson said.
A reference group representing key stakeholders including local iwi, community, local body, central government and other interest groups will now be formed to help decide on future use of the land.
A feasibility study will also be undertaken by the Ministry to identify options to take the project forward and a programme of maintenance established to protect the historical sites and make the area safe for the public. The area is expected to remain closed until that work is complete.
About Watts Peninsula
The Māori name for Watts Peninsula is Te Motu Kairangi.
It is the site of discovery, occupation and departure for a large number of iwi and hapu.
There are a large number of Māori sites on the peninsula which are rare due to their number, condition and proximity to a major city.
The site, which occupies 75.85 hectares, is also intimately connected to early European settlement as it formed part of the New Zealand Company’s purchase and was eventually carved up for settlement.
The first owner of Lot 3 was James Watt after whom the peninsula was eventually named.
Watts Peninsula is a former military reserve. The land contains a collection of structures and sites representative of defence work and construction from the Russian threats of the 1880s through to the Second World War.
Many of the forts and batteries have survived and are registered as Category 1 historic places due to their significant historical value.