An update on Martin Butler’s investigation into the ‘forgotten tunnels’ of North Head

Despite criticising Martin Butler’s book on the alleged missing tunnels in North Head, “Tunnel Vision”, I did end my review with:

Still, there is something to commend about Butler’s work: he actually went out and did some site investigation of his own. In an appendix to “Tunnel Vision” he details the results of some ground radar work he commissioned, and the results of these new scans are very interesting and, I believe, warrant further investigation. Martin is applying for permission to excavate in the anomalous areas and I really hope he gets it (although I would qualify that by saying he needs an archaeologist to undertake the actual exploratory digging). Whilst its possible that at least one of the areas he surveyed is a known-but-missing gun emplacement that Dave Veart and company tried to locate but never found, some of the anomalies, if they turn out to be tunnels, would be genuinely surprising and unaccounted for in the official history. As such, I’m eager for these anomalies to be investigated and, if they show the existence of hitherto only suspected tunnels, I’ll happily tell the world about it.

Butler has been seeking permission to perform his proposed dig for a while now, and, for reasons which aren’t entirely clear, I get a lot of correspondence asking for updates. So, a few days ago, I emailed Martin about it and so the following post his site, was born. From the looks of it, things are progressing well and, basically, he’s simply waiting on Parliament to pass a bill which will give back Maungauika to its rightful owners.

There a few interesting tidbits, at least to my mind, to be found in Martin’s progress report. For one thing, he writes:

I have recently been asked if this should be an election issue in the surrounding electorates of North Head. If I lived in the area, I would certainly want to know why a senior Minister of the Crown, in a key position, Jonathan Coleman – Minister of Defence does not want to support an independent investigation of the Torpedo Yard.

I suspect the answer is simply: “Because as far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned, the Department of Conservation investigations settled the issue.” If you think there’s no mystery to uncover, why would you bother supporting another investigation, the results of which you are sure you already know? Especially in a case in which if you choose to support it and nothing was found, the Opposition might then use against you, tarring you as a conspiracy theorist?

However, Martin is coming at this from the perspective of believing that the MOD knows the prior investigations were faulty, whitewashes or the like. As such, he sees Jonathan Coleman’s reluctance to support an independent investigation as suspicious. After all, it’s an independent investigation: it’s not like it’s going to cost anyone anything. However, there are political costs to giving or looking like you are endorsing such an investigation, so I remain unconvinced that the reluctance of a series of Ministers to reopen the North Head case shows that something suspicious is up. Now, maybe Butler has evidence of that to present in his new edition of “Tunnel Vision”. I admit to not being convinced by the evidence in the last edition, but I’m also willing read the new version with an open mind.

For another thing, it’s interesting that he talks about ‘forgotten tunnels’, although he does so in quote marks. Is this a sign that he’s open to the notion that there might be no intended cover up but, rather, that some tunnels have gone missing due to an incomplete historical record and changes to the hill face? Or is it wry observation that talking about ‘forgotten’ tunnels gets you more respect and attention than talking about tunnels which are missing because a cover-up is still in existence? I guess we’ll see: I, for one, will be getting a copy of “Tunnel Vision” as soon as it’s released so I can review it anew.