Stony Batter tunnels remain closed to the public almost a year after the Department of Conservation closed them.
The tunnels, which were built during World War II, were closed in April last year because of safety concerns, says Department of Conservation (DOC) Auckland manager Keith Gell.
“DOC has carried out a major cleanup operation at the tunnels and completed other maintenance and conservation work at the site.
“We’re still working through the process of bringing in a new organisation to run a safe and enhanced experience for visitors to the tunnels and the surrounding reserve. We’re making progress but are not in a position to talk publicly about this at this stage,” he says.
Several complaints were made about problems with visitor safety at the tunnels before they were closed, says Mr Gell.
Last April, a group could not find a guide and became seriously concerned when they had difficulty finding their way out of the maze of tunnels.
Stony Batter Protection and Restoration Society held a concession to take guided tours through the tunnels from 2003 to 2011.
Attempts to negotiate a new concession and improve management of the site were unsuccessful, he says.
Long-term island resident Sue Pawley had been giving visitors access to the tunnels but was overseas at the time that the tunnels were closed.
This meant that no permitted operator was on site to make sure the tunnels were managed safely, says Mr Gell.
DOC regards self-guided tours of the tunnels as posing an “inappropriate” risk to visitor safety.
Last year, expressions of interest were sought for operating guided tours of the tunnels and it was hoped that a new operator would begin by the end of 2015.
Stony Batter reserve remains open, so people can see the historic features, gun emplacements, unusual rock formations, native bush and sweeping views across the Hauraki Gulf.
About 40,000 people visit the reserve every year but some visitors choose not to enter the tunnels which were built from 1943 as part of military defence systems. • Rose Davis

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