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Watts Peninsula

Watts Peninsula is a 75.85 hectare piece of land on the Miramar Peninsula, Wellington. It has been owned by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) since 1885. 

The site sits alongside the Mt Crawford Prison;  the Massey Memorial (administered by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage); and the Point Halswell Public Reserve (managed by the Department of Conservation). The former airbase at Shelly Bay, now owned by the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, is at the foot of the peninsula.

Watts Peninsula is a place of national significance because the land contains sites from different periods in New Zealand’s history, set in an historically integrated landscape. There are a large number of Māori sites on the land which are rare due to their quantity, intactness and proximity to one of our major cities. 

Both Māori and Pākehā have prized the peninsula for its strategic potential and defence capabilities. The land contains a collection of sites, structures and construction from throughout the land’s history, some of which have an importance beyond their military context as they exemplify New Zealand’s shift away from reliance on Britain for military aid in the nineteenth century and its first steps towards independence.

Watts Peninsula was the point of entry to Wellington Harbour for both Pākehā and Māori, and it is an important gateway into the city for visitors. The area is a prominent landmark and can be seen from many points around Wellington, including from the sea, land and air.

In 2008, the NZDF decided to dispose of the land. This decision drew a large amount of public interest because of the number of archaeological and historic heritage sites on the site and due to the recreation and open space potential of the land.

Ministers realised that there was an opportunity to retain Watts Peninsula in public ownership and create an area that combines the national significance of the site and its layers of history with opportunities for cultural, recreational and arts events. In September 2011, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage was asked to work with the NZDF and the Department of Conservation on the creation of the site as a reserve under the Reserves Act 1977.  

As a reserve, the site would be classified, either in full or in part, for historic purposes, meaning the site and its places, objects and natural features of historic, archaeological, cultural and special interest would be protected and preserved in perpetuity. Creating a reserve would provide the most appropriate protection for the particular conservation and heritage values of the site and the most secure basis for its sensitive development.

In September 2014, the Crown, Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST) and Wellington City Council signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) intended to ensure the heritage of the historically important Watts Peninsula, or Te Motu Kairangi, is protected, preserved and developed with sensitivity. The MOU recognises the cultural and historical significance of Watts Peninsula, and sets out the relationship between the three parties including the guiding principles for the development of the future vision for Watts Peninsula.

Related document

Watts Peninsula Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) September 2014 (pdf version)


Updated on 5th November 2018