Historic documents being moved from WW2 bunker

Historic documents from the gold mining era stored in a World War 2 ammunition and fuel bunker near Alexandra are being transferred to the Dunedin Archives New Zealand office for long-term storage.

The bunker at Letts Gully had provided a relatively stable environment for the records, which dated back to the Otago gold mining days of the 1800s, Archives New Zealand's Dunedin regional archivist Peter Miller said.

The 140sq m bunker was one of nine built during World War 2 with 40cm-thick brick walls and a concrete roof when the threat from Japan was at its height.

Archivist Aaron Braden said the site of the bunkers was apparently chosen for its distance from the coast.

Most of the records of the Wardens Court, which administered the gold fields from 1861 to 1973, were transferred to the Hocken Library before 1972. The Hocken Library had acted as a repository for government records in Otago and Southland before the opening of the Dunedin Archives New Zealand office in 1993.

Files remaining in the bunker were mostly mining registration files from 1899 to 1973.

Mr Braden said there was quite a lot of interest in the files from people wishing to find out more about family members' gold mining activities.

People were also interested in criminal court record books, which were subject to a 100-year restriction, tracing relatives who might have had "too much to drink on the gold fields", Mr Braden said.

On the first retrieval trip earlier this month, Mr Miller and Mr Braden boxed up half the material, about 50 file boxes, and would be returning next month for the rest.

Mr Braden said some documents relating to water rights in Central Otago dating back to 1860 were still held by the Otago Regional Council because they were still active and did not expire until 2020.


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