Thousands of Cantabrians and visitors have the chance to learn about Christchurch’s World War II history with the reopening of the historic Awaroa/Godley Head gun emplacements.
The Department of Conservation manages the site, which was deemed unsafe following the 2011 earthquakes and closed to the public.
Built in 1939, the Godley Head coastal defence battery is ranked as one of the top ten New Zealand coastal defence heritage sites and is visited by 100,000 people a year.
DOC Mahaanui operations manager Andy Thompson says it’s wonderful to celebrate the reopening of this icon site.
“Generations of Cantabrians have learnt about Christchurch’s role in World War II by visiting Awaroa.
"The site has now been repaired and upgraded and visitors are already beginning to rediscover its secrets.”
More than $300,000 has been spent strengthening and upgrading the site. A further $140,000 has been spent on graffiti removal, security cameras and graffiti guarding. Lighting has been installed in the underground ammunition stores to enhance the visitor experience.
DOC has partnered with Dulux to clear layers of graffiti from the gun emplacements after taggers saw the closed historical buildings as a blank canvas.
“While tagging was previously a problem, a new anti-graffiti coating on the buildings means any future tagging can be easily removed,” says Andy.
“Future would-be vandals will also find themselves caught in the act on a new monitored security system.”
DOC has also collaborated with respected professional street artist Wongi Wilson to install artwork explaining the WWII history of Godley Head.
“Wongi has worked alongside us and the Godley Head Heritage Trust to understand the history and develop a theme for each gun emplacement that tells a story.
“We hope by using art to bring the history of Awaroa to life, a new generation of visitors will learn about and appreciate Godley Head.”
The Godley Head three-hour loop track has also been upgraded and extended. Visitors can now enjoy dramatic views of Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraup≈ç, Banks Peninsula and the Kaikoura ranges.
“This is one of the most popular day walks in the South Island. Awaroa has a wide variety of recreation opportunities, which includes the campground that sees increased patronage year-on-year. We are glad that we can add yet another reason to visit this special place.”
As well as 100,000 annual visitors, 4500 people stayed at DOC’s Godley Head campsite last season with visitors to the popular heritage site generating an economic impact of more than $3 million for Christchurch.
Godley Head Heritage Trust chair Peter Wilkins says the many upgrades to the site will put Godley Head on the map with a surge in visitor numbers expected.
The Godley Head Heritage Trust also manage and maintain a museum on site that is open to the public by appointment. Within the museum are the original six-inch guns that occupied the gun emplacement when it was operational.