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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      The Wallaceville Animal Research Centre, located in Wellington, New Zealand, was a Government-owned veterinary and animal research centre. Following the establishment of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture in 1892, a new facility was commissioned to undertake research on livestock, which could then be applied to help farming communities across the country. The laboratory was eventually constructed in 1905. Before this time, research had simply been carried out in temporary makeshift laboratories in Wellington. 

      New Zealand’s only Government Veterinary Surgeon, John Gilruth, was appointed as Wallaceville Laboratory’s founder and officer-in-charge. Gilruth had spent many years investigating stock diseases in New Zealand and France, so he was already a chief veterinarian, government bacteriologist and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. According to historical records, Scottish-born Gilruth went on to become the Administrator of the Northern Territory in Darwin, Australia. However, his blunt, dynamic style of leadership, which was often viewed as being arrogant and insensitive, resulted in the Darwin Rebellion in 1918. Subsequently, Gilruth was forced to resign from his position and evacuate the Northern Territory under the protection of HMAS Encounter, a military cruiser. 

      As for the research facility in Wallaceville, it continued to expand over the years as more land surrounding the original building was drained and cleared. In the end, over two hundred people worked for the veterinary facility and one hundred acres of land were developed into laboratory buildings and pastures for farm stock and growing oats and other crops for animal feed. However, following plans to relocate the site at the beginning of the millennium, the facility closed in 2007. After the move, the site remained abandoned until 2014, when part of the site was redeveloped into a business park. The remaining farmland and pastures were later sold to a private owner for property development. 

      Our Version of Events

      And so, we come to our final explore in New Zealand, before we made the incredibly long journey back to England. We were in Wellington, ready to catch our flight but decided there was still time for one last dirty derp. In the end, there’s always time for a quickie. 

      After quick head’s up from Urbex Central NZ, then, we found ourselves stood outside the oldest veterinary facility in the southern hemisphere. Gaining access wasn’t particularly difficult, despite it being situated on a relatively active business park. We simply strutted in with ninja-like skills and managed to squeeze through an inhumanly-sized hole in the roof, right at the tippy top. 

      Once inside, it was immediately obvious that touching anything would be a very bad idea, as it would probably result in us contracting a form of AIDs. The contents of various cardboard boxes we found happened to have chicken varieties, cow ones and a couple of strains belonging to pigs. There were plenty of other vials of diseases scattered throughout the site too, which made our initial paranoia about cutting a finger or grazing an arm even more pronounced. Fortunately, though, we seem to have made it out unscathed.

      All in all, then, the explore was really good. There was plenty of stuff left over, and we had to sneak around a bit to avoid being seen by anyone wandering around outside which is always fun. The entire building still had a 1905 feeling to it too, since everything looked dated compared to a modern-day laboratory such as GSK. We spent roughly forty-five minutes inside, and then called it a day because we’d managed to take snaps of every room. Getting back out, however, was a mighty task since it suddenly became extremely busy outside with cars and people passing by. Somehow, though, and we’re really not quite sure how, we still managed to avoid getting caught by anyone as we retraced the steps we’d initially taken to get inside. 

      Farewells and Some Acknowledgements

      On and off since 2014, we’ve been travelling back and forth between the UK and New Zealand. This explore stands as the last explore we’re likely to do in New Zealand for a good while because the coffers are now almost entirely depleted. At this point in time then, we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone we’ve met, explored and gotten caught by the police with, particularly Urbex Central New Zealand. In particular, we would like to thank our friend, Nillskill, for sharing locations and taking the time to travel around most of the country with us. In total, we managed to explore over one-hundred and eleven sites together. You will be missed, but we look forward to your proposed visit to the UK at some point in the near future. We would also like to mention a few more names of those we’ve met along the way: Bane, Gunner, Zort, Nadita, Harley, René, The Mexican Bandit and Dylan. It was a real pleasure to have met you all, and we’re happy that we managed to spend some time exploring together, even if one of you does insist on being called Zort in everyday life. Stay safe, ladies and gents. Cheerio. 

      WildBoyz.

      Explored with Nillskill.
       
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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is a Category I Historic Place located in a large suburban area of Wellington, New Zealand. It was constructed in 1955 using concrete, and its design, which is indicative of a post-war utopian vision, was heavily influenced by the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright’s belief that structures should be in harmony with humanity and the wider environment. Once completed, the building was thought to have been one of the most contemporary fire stations in the southern hemisphere. Certain features helped to reinforce this image, such as the temporary accommodation inside the station that was said to create a sense of community and camaraderie, the control room that allowed fire engines to be started and stopped remotely, the main doors which could be opened automatically and new technology that could be used to record phone calls. The post-war modernist style of architecture, with its aesthetic smooth surfaces and curves, became very popular throughout Wellington in the 1950s because it represented progress and modernity for a newly emerging city. 

      Following a review of the New Zealand Fire Service in the mid-2000s, and some restructuring due to population dispersal of the city’s growing number of residents, it was decided that three stations in Wellington City would be shut down – those in Lower Hutt, Petone and Point Howard. Lower Hutt Central Station was subsequently closed in 2007. All of its crews and engines were split between three new strategically placed stations at Alicetown, Avalon and Seaview. Since its closure, Lower Hutt Fire Station has remained unoccupied and neglected and this has resulted in it being heavily vandalised. 

      Our Version of Events

      There’s not a great deal to say about this one.Urbex Central happened to mention they knew the whereabouts of an abandoned fire station, so, in their company, we decided to go take a look. We were immediately sold on the idea after they brought up it still had poles. That’s about the only thing it had going for it mind you. Since being abandoned in 2007, the station has been well and truly stripped of anything of value so it’s largely just a shell these days. However, as noted above, the poles do still exist, and they were easy to find across the site because they sit behind ‘Pole Drop’ doors on the upstairs floors. So, if you happen to be passing by, make sure you pop in and have a quick session on the poles. 

      Explored with Nillskill. 
       
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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      Holcim, originally named Aargauische Portlandcementfabrik Holderbank-Wildegg, is a Swiss-based building materials and aggregates company that was founded in 1912. The company expanded across Europe in the 1920s, then the Middle East and Americas between the 1930s and 50s. By the 1970s, the company had begun to expand into the Latin Americas and Asian countries. Today, the company employs over seventy-one thousand people and it holds interests in over seventy countries. Following a series of significant mergers with other companies, Holcim has become one of the largest cement manufacturers in the world. The company’s name was changed to Holcim in 2001 – it is short for Holderbank and cement.

      Holcim’s Cape Foulwind cement works opened in 1958. However, as it has reportedly become cheaper to import cement from Japan, the plant was closed in 2016. The power was turned off on the 29th June, after the remaining eighty workers went home at midday, and the Holcim Cement Carrier left Westport harbour for the last time carrying the remaining 2,500 tonnes of cement from the wharf silos. To help support its staff, Holcim started a Tools for the Future programme to equip workers for after the plant closed. The scheme offered courses that would give their staff skills in other forms of employment, such as barista and chainsaw training, and guaranteed each worker a toolbox. All workers received tools for their toolboxes when they met targets, up to the final closure date of the plant. As a result of the closure, one hundred and five staff and contractors lost their jobs. Their final gift from Holcim was an umbrella and a ratchet set, to add to their toolboxes.

      Immediately after the plans to close the site were made public, The Buller District Council began looking for new businesses to occupy the land to ensure the survival of Westport and nearby villages; the town’s port grew because of the cement works and it was the area's main source of income. However, a year on and still no redevelopment work has taken place. Although there are plans to turn the site into an eco-park that could make energy from rubbish incineration or turn waste timber into bio-diesel, farms or an industrial park, the council have been unable to find new companies or buyers willing to establish a base in such a rural area of New Zealand. Today, only seven security guards, who were all members of staff at the plant, remain to protect the site until it is sold. As for the town of Westport, a number of houses are now up for sale as many local residents have been unable to find work in the area. Unfortunately, it seems likely that Westport will suffer heavily in the long term as a result of Holcim’s closure.

      Our Version of Events

      Holcim’s old cement works has been on the radar for a little while now. However, because it’s located on the desolate West Coast, we’d never had much reason to head in that general direction. Fortunately, though (for us), a major storm hit New Zealand the week we decided to go off and do some exploring, so, to flee the bad weather, we ended up in Westport. 

      As we arrived, the rain had eased into a light drizzle for the first time in days. Yet, despite the change in weather, we still weren’t very optimistic that we’d get onto the site since there were several security cars parked outside of the buildings at the front of the site. Since we’d driven all the way, though, effectively into the middle of nowhere, we decided to have a crack anyway. 

      In the end, access was a lot easier than we imagined, although it did entail a fair bit of walking. And once we were in, we managed, somehow, to completely avoid secca. There was the feeling that one of them could suddenly appear the entire time, since the site had many nooks, crannies and entranceways; however, we got lucky and didn’t encounter anyone until we were on our way back to the cars, back on the right side of the fence. As for the site itself, it was absolutely massive. Most of the interior was quite cramped and full of strange looking machinery, and some areas were flooded. The exterior was perhaps the best part of the explore as it had a very imposing feel to it. It kind of felt like we were extras on a Star Wars set at times. There were some sections to the front of the site that were difficult to access due to secca, and because the entire plant was coated in a thick slimy layer of cement we were unable to climb up some of the high-rise sections. There’s definitely scope to revisit the site then, to have a look at the couple of parts we didn’t manage to visit. 

      Explored with Nillskill. 
       
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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      The old Chrome Platers Ltd. building in Timaru, which is a Category II historic place, was constructed in 1883. It is not known who owned the site originally, but the company, Chrome Platers Ltd., which now trades as Concours Electroplating Ltd., purchased the site in 1961 and continued to use the premises up until 2014. The company specialised in electroplating chromium onto metal objects for decoration and/or protection against corrosion. 

      Concerns about the safety of the site were first raised in 2015, when a vat of acid caught fire inside the building. Some sources, however, suggest that it was a gas leak that raised initial concerns. Either way, hundreds of people were forced to evacuate the site and those surrounding it. An investigation was subsequently launched and this resulted in the owner being issued a warning to identify and store chemicals more safely. Following a second assessment in 2016, it was found that the owner had failed to comply with health and safety stands for hazardous substances. According to the agencies involved in monitoring the safety of the site, “[the owner] failed to meet his obligations under both sets of legislation and does not have the financial resources to bring the property into compliance.” In total, between 90,000 and 133,500 litres of chemicals with high levels of toxicity and insufficient labelling were still found unsafety stored at the site.

      A clean-up of the site took place in 2016, at an estimated cost of $750,000. Following the successful clear-out of hazardous chemicals, the agencies negotiated with the owner (threatened him with jail time) and it was decided he would ‘quit the property’ and allow it to be added to the government’s Contaminated Sites register. However, despite being thoroughly cleaned the council has now deemed the structural integrity of the site as being unstable and, on the whole, in a poor condition. There are concerns about the contamination levels of the soil beneath the structure, and the condition of the concrete and key supporting beams. According to Davina McNickel, an ECan scientist, the site still poses a serious hazard to individuals entering the premises and “under no circumstances should the public make any attempt to access the building.” It other words, its future appears to be very bleak, especially as no party has indicated that it would be financially viable to save the building. Therefore, demolition could well take place very soon, once the council has negotiated with Heritage NZ to remove its listing as a Category Two historic place. 

      Our Version of Events

      We’d checked out this place a few months ago, but a little pushed for time we only had time to explore the building next door which turned out to be an old nightclub.However, as we had to travel up through Timaru once again, this time to escape a storm that led to a state of crisis being declared across the South Island, we decided we’ve have another crack at the old chrome platers building. At first things, didn’t look too hopeful mind. All the obvious entrances were well sealed, and even the nightclub next door had been re-secured. In the end, though, our perseverance paid off and we managed to get inside. 

      As soon as we entered the main workshop it was instantly obvious that most of the good stuff had been cleaned out during the great purge of 2017 which had taken place a few months earlier. Nevertheless, there was still a heavy chemical smell in the air, and a few bits and bobs to see, so there was a good feel to the place. In addition, with all the old tools lying around, you could almost imagine several well-chromed Harleys or Chevrolet pick-ups sitting on the main shop floor, ready to be polished one last time. We spent around half an hour wandering around the old site, making sure in that time that we checked out the ‘poison room’, on the off chance the council and agencies had left something interesting behind. Sadly, in our warped opinion anyway, it seemed they’ve done a very thorough job of removing the 100,000 litres of chemicals because not a single drop remains. 

      After the poison room, we decided it was time to crack on and get outta town. We left via the main door this time, for a snappy exit onto the main street, rather than faff around trying to get out the hard way. We relocked it as we departed though, so apologies to those fellow Kiwi explorers out there. We’d heard many bad tales about the local youths in Timaru, so we thought it was best to make it more difficult for the cans of spray paint to get inside. 

      Explored with Nillskill. 
       
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    • By WildBoyz
      History

      Bastion Point, also known as Kohimarama, is an area of land that overlooks Waitemata Harbour, in Auckland. Originally, the land was occupied by Ngāti Whātua, a large Māori tribe consisting of four sub-tribes that settled in Tāmaki. However, when Western colonisation of New Zealand occurred, the land was ‘bought’ and confiscated by the New Zealand Government for ‘public works and development’. 

      However, in 1895, with the threat of a Russian attack imminent, the New Zealand Government decided to build a military outpost at Bastion Point. The area of land had a commanding and strategic advantage against any warships entering the harbour below. Once completed in 1886, the fort, which was named Fort Bastion, had two disappearing guns and two six pounders, with underground passages connecting each of the sites together. However, the Russian threat waned by the 1920s and this resulted in the fort being abandoned. 

      Fort Bastion was reactivated in the 1940s, following the outbreak of World War Two. However, as a memorial had been built over the former artillery storage tunnels, the position of the battery was moved slightly. The fort was then fitted with twelve pounder guns, which were later replaced with six pounders, and two guns at water level (where the Tamaki Yacht Club now sits). A large boom that linked Torpedo Bay with Bastion Point was also placed across the harbour to prevent enemy submarines from reaching Auckland. The last things to be added to the renovated fort were an anti-aircraft battery, three searchlight emplacements, an observation post, a radar station and a camp to house the expanding military personnel required to man the new installations. 

      Soon after the war, Fort Bastion was abandoned once again. Over the years some sections of the site were demolished to make way for a memorial garden. The remaining parts of the fort fell into a state of disrepair and were gradually lost as the surrounding bush shrouded them. The remainder of the fort survived because little development work went on in the area owing to territory disputes that eventually culminated in the 1970s. Fierce arguments over the ownership of the land arose as the Ngāti Whātua tribe wanted the area handing back. The tribe did manage to occupy the land for five-hundred and seven days at one point, but the New Zealand army were sent in to forcibly remove the protesters. In the end, two-hundred and twenty-two of them were arrested. Despite the eviction, though, the land was eventually placed under Māori ownership in the 1980s. It was handed to the Ngāti Whātua tribe, along with some financial compensation. Since then, little interest in the fort has been shown; therefore, it remains neglected and forgotten. 

      Our Version of Events

      After a fairly successful day exploring Auckland, we decided to meet up with another explorer who knew about some old tunnels that existed over near Kohimarama – one of the city’s suburbs. Apparently, very few people know about their existence because they are well hidden in the bush, so it seemed like a good idea to go check them out. 

      It didn’t take too long to drive across the city to Kohimarama. From there, we ditched the cars and climbed over a small fence to get into the bush. At the tree borderline, you could just make out the remains of an old concrete staircase, but it was very easy to miss if you happened just to be passing by. We followed the staircase, which was harder to ascend than we initially thought due to the dense vegetation. The stairs started to disappear after a while too; they were absolutely caked in moist earth and dead foliage. The climb continued until we reached a large block of concrete that was heavily worn and cracked. Then we traversed slightly to the right to get behind it, to reach a small cave-like opening.

      The portal to the old tunnels wasn’t what we were expecting at all. It looked very similar to the coal mine we found in Bishop Auckland – bloody tiny! Nevertheless, our new friend, René, told us that the tunnels were inside, so, leading the way, he cracked on and disappeared into the hole. We followed him, with our fingers tightly crossed in hope that what we were about to find was going to be worth it. The first few metres were tough going with bottles of beer in hand, as it was tight and muddy. After that, though, the cave started to transform into a crude concrete tunnel. 

      The concrete tunnel led us into a large chamber that was supported by three large columns and a long metal girder. We crossed the room quickly because it was incredibly hot inside, and headed into another passage that gradually turned to the right. At the end of it, we discovered a collapsed section of the fort and a small room to the right, behind an iron door. And that was all there was to see, unfortunately. However, even though the explore turned out to be a short one, it was still cool to be able to stand in the remnants of Fort Bastion. It always amazes us how this sort of stuff manages to survive, despite being abandoned for well over seventy years. 

      Explored with Nillskill, Nadita and René. 
       
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