When oral historian Sue Gee was asked to write about the Hobsonville Point Rifle Range she embarked on a journey of historical investigation at Archives New Zealand that would, through letters, plans and memorandums, not only document the building of the range but also reveal political jostling even then, between Wellington and Auckland cities.
The language of the time intrigued her, for instance from this letter dated November, 1939 from the Wellington Public Works Department:
“..Advice has been received from the Air Department that a Two Point Machine Gun Range is to be provided at Hobsonville. This Range is to be provided by virtue of the establishment at Hobsonville of the Armament Repair Depot although no actual practices will be fired for training purposes on this range…” Gee interviewed armourers like Ron Hales who served in the 1950s, and Perry Dunfoy who is still in service. They recounted real-life stories about guns and weaponry. Their specialist knowledge helped unravel some of the mysteries of those early communications and informed the writing of the history panels located at the range, which is just off Catalina Bay Drive. Gee says it’s the weaving together of historical fact and the individual’s life experience, character and detail that brings a story to life. The interviews are part of an on-going oral history project Te Onekiritea Hobsonville Point History Project. They can be heard in the West Auckland Research Centre, Level 1, Henderson Library.
The Rifle Range has now been converted to a landscaped amphitheatre. Bullet holes are still visible on the stage walls, one of the remnants of its past. The only thing ricocheting of the walls these days are the sounds of birthday parties, BoxFit Classes, dance exhibitions, band practices, Eco Fun festivals and locals having a spontaneous picnic.
Please contact Kāinga Ora via firstname.lastname@example.org for information on booking the venue for larger community events.