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Wellington’s secret war base open to public for Labour Day

Wrights Hill Fortress, Wellington’s secret army base, is open to the public for Wellington Heritage Week on Labour Day.

Wellington City Council

Through the 620 metres of tunnels running under the hills of Karori, people can poke around and discover the nooks and crannies of a secret World War II base, Wrights Hill Fortress.

Visitors will be able to explore the engine room, shell stores, plotting rooms and the huge gun pit.

Chairman of the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society Mike Lee said construction began on the fortress in earnest in 1942. But by the time the two massive guns were delivered to New Zealand from England in 1944, war in the Pacific had calmed down and the threat from Japan had eased.

Those two guns were only ever fired twice, Lee said, once in 1946 and 1947. Both times were test fires.

Cameron Burnell

The fortress suffered from years of neglect before the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society began restoring the underground facility to its former glory.

While the fortress was abandoned, people would often break in and find bits and bobs to take home. Each engine originally had 12 pistons each on them and the restoration society has so far recovered four of them.

“Someone was using one as a doorstop,” Lee said.