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HOW TO INVADE NEW ZEALAND With help from my local Archives NZ office

By: elocal Team




I’m a hostile spy from, ohhh, let’s say China. No, Israel. Or Russia. Whatever: the most important thing is that I’m a spy.


I’m wanting to know where all of New Zealand’s defences are located, who is manning them, when these defences are most vulnerable, and how many soldiers and weapons New Zealand has. I could do a Google search, comb through Wikileaks, or look for an informant, a leak, a modern-day Bill Sutch…

Actually, there’s no need for sneaky stuff: the staff at my local Archives New Zealand office will bend over backwards to give me boxes of info on all of NZ’s defence capabilities. Shocked? I needn’t be: The Public Records Act 2005 requires that local and central governments surrender records of all sorts of transactions, and that means the Public Weather Service had to surrender its UFO files, the GCSB and SIS have had to open up their spy files and the Ministry of Defence has had to give up a lot of its secrets.

I pop into my Auckland Archives office and encounter people researching everything from genealogy to the Treaty of Waitangi. I’m after exciting military historical files featuring explosions, invasions and battleships from among the 60 kilometres records on the shelves. That amount of filing is a Herculean task for the folks who work here.

The reason that Archives NZ is open to the public, according to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Chris Tremain, is because “One of the indications of a strong society is having evidence of the decision and actions of government. By keeping good government records, and making those records accessible, the public can be confident the government is accountable.”

The insidious scheme to get my hands on sensitive files is delayed by only 20 minutes or so while I wait for the archivists to bring me whatever I request. Friendly staffers Mark and Wendy have no qualms about handing over the anti-aircraft defence policies of ANZAC troops, or naming everybody in the NZ Scottish Auckland Detachment, or reading war diaries. I’m free to look at confidential reports written by NCOs from 1904, I can do what I want with the Coastal Defence Command’s 1911 correspondence, find out who was decorated with which medal in the Boer War. I can read data on any military camp from any year from the Hauraki Plains to Rangitoto. If I want to, I can work out where the weak points are in the Drill Hall at Paeroa and sabotage the building! I can locate the rifle range at Papakura. There are files on camouflage, hospitals, pigeon lofts, sundry buildings, tanks, the Home Guard, the Maori War Effort, standing orders, a file on alliances and allied units, security intelligence reports, Japanese tactics, shipping reports, aircraft manoeuvres, regional exercise, as many war diaries as I like, and a century of investigations into unidentified flying objects.

What’s the catch? I think to myself, and then I realise: my information could be 70 years out of date!

This department’s Research Guide alone features entire series on British colonial forces, NZ war medals, military settlers, militia, WWI, rehabilitation, nursing, war photographs, war graves in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, conscription, the RNZAF, RNZN and more, and I laugh as I open yet another file stamped Top Secret or Classified. I’m feeling greedy for more astonishing information, and I have the Ministry of Works to thank. They were involved in building most structures for the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Works had a regrettable habit of distributing many copies of paperwork giving away the secret locations of buildings and weapons. Torpedoes are something I’ll have to eliminate when I invade this country, so I ask Mark and Wendy for file BBAD 1054 Box 2667 ref E record number 8/5/48. When WWII ended, New Zealand kept on increasing its defence capabilities as the Iron Curtain was set up and the country had been forced to take sides in the Cold War. The Kiwis’ primary allegiance was still to the United Kingdom, which acquired the hydrogen bomb and tested it in the Pacific. Soviet-spy-terrorist that I am, I open the file and read about what the torpedo storage unit is made of: machine screws, timber panels, electrical conduits, pipe, powdered borax, copper and lighting, joinery and paint… Now that I know what the building’s made of, it’ll be that much easier to sabotage.
Next, I need to find out how prepared this country is in the event of an invasion.

Mark and Wendy bring out Box C 43 726, a file devoted to Exercise Battle-Axe, which is a war game in which NZ soldiers prepares itself for the Japanese invasion they are expecting (this is 1942, it turns out… .) The information is like a Lonely Planet Guide To Invading New Zealand. Before me are real maps showing troop movements, inventories of ammunition, armour, and weaponry, and charts listing commanders and the itinerary of troop movements. I can see where the Kiwis will be and at what time. The Kiwis seem to have thought that their mountains of paperwork would scare me off, but it hasn’t worked.

On a page labelled Secret, the May 7 offensive is described in minute detail. It tells me the precise timing of the exercise and the landing locations of the Japs. I am given the locations of tank routes. I can see which defence brigade left Bombay at 1400 hours and which left Papakura at 1520. I know who should be stationed on which hill during each phase. I know which infantry brigades are being used and how much artillery support is provided. I have the list of Kiwi code names.

Now I discover in a file marked SPECIAL ORDERS a 1940 report on a military exercise in which unspecified foreign forces have landed at Kawakawa Bay. I’ve uncovered instructions to move the NZ vanguard across the Urungahauhau Stream, and I know that they’re under the command of Captain J. Hepburn. I decide to surprise the New Zealand contingent at Whakatere Hill as they arrive at 0900 hours accompanied by three vehicles. I know that they’ll have eaten breakfast is specified at 0400 hours, and the troops have to carry their dry lunch with them: the archives reveal EVERYTHING!

Still, if I’m inspired to invade, I do have that pesky Home Guard to get past, so I open file 17/8, Subject: Home Guards Operation Orders. I learn from a memo that New Zealand’s ports must be able to shroud their lights at a moment’s notice. This is worrying, as I would have liked my ships to land tanks in Wellington Harbour, but another file reveals an anti-tank fence has been installed on the beach, and the Home Guard has been authorised to use something very deadly to prevent a foreign invasion: guerrilla warfare.

The archives also reveal what New Zealand knows about her enemies and their offensive capabilities. I have a file of intelligence informing me what weaponry the Japanese are using. If this were to fall into enemy hands, it would give an advantage to the invaders. The double-agents at Archives NZ slip me a dossier essaying the rifles, artillery, bombs and grenades which the Japanese are carrying. I have pages and pages of information about Japanese unit formations, anti-aircraft defence, trench warfare, bayonets, signals, wireless communication, tactics, night operations, and captured islands. I have penetrated to the heart of Imperial Japan, all without leaving my computer chair.

There’s intel on the Royal New Zealand Navy, too. If I’m feeling inclined towards destroying the naval base at Devonport, file B.25 gives away everything I need to know about the 12th ordinance artillery yard. A list grades the structural integrity of each building, and a handy map clearly shows where to find the guard room, master gunners’ store, artillery hall and torpedo stores. I can’t believe they’ve let this fall into my hands! New Zealand really is too polite for its own good.

There are stacks of files showing the location and facilities of rifle ranges in practically every town in New Zealand. There are dossiers on drill halls, hospitals, ammunition stores and even pigeon lofts. Encouraged by the information on the army and navy, I’ve decided to attack the air force.

All it takes is the click of a button to order a file called ‘Explosives Laboratory and Guided Weapons Testing Facility: Hobsonville.’ It may be from 1967, but who cares: the information Mark and Wendy bring me is still juicy, and quick, too – even Pizza Hut doesn’t deliver this quickly. Thanks to the generosity of the Ministry of Defence, I can read all about how Whenuapai’s explosives storage and inspection facilities were expanded and the exact structure of the building (which is precisely 39m x 15.9m… which tells me how much explosive I might need). I learn that the building stores tetrachloride (Thank you, file box 583), has an anti-lightning mechanism, that the walls are up to 450mm thick, the roof is reinforced concrete, and that its doors are nothing more than steel and timber. From here I’ll request a whole dossier on laser-guided missiles, which will soon spell the end of Godzone.

Greg Goulding, Chief Archivist, writes in the foreword to a major new book on our archives that “The record of how we have behaved as a nation and as a society may surprise and in some cases sadden some.” Not really – I’m just impressed that New Zealand is such a confident country that it allows this sort of transparency. Unlike so many world powers, New Zealand’s government departments don’t try to cover up all of their decisions and records.

With a newfound respect, I decide to leave New Zealand alone… for now.


“This department’s Research Guide alone features entire series on British colonial forces, NZ war medals, military settlers, militia, WWI, rehabilitation, nursing, war photographs, war graves in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, conscription, the RNZAF, RNZN and more, and I laugh as I open yet another file stamped Top Secret or Classified”



“All it takes is the click of a button to order a file called ‘Explosives Laboratory & Guided Weapons Testing Facility: Hobsonville.”




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elocal Digital Edition – June 2024 (#278)

elocal Digital Edition
June 2024 (#278)


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