On the 10th of July 2002, a team of five Wellington council workers were wandering through the Rimutaka forest, near Upper Hutt, laying 1080 poison bait for possums. The team eventually got around to the Tunnel Gully Recreation Area, a place named after its proximity to the historic Mangaroa Tunnel, a part of the Wairarapa Rail Line, that connected Wellington to Woodville, a small town of 1,600 found 25km east of Palmerston North.
The team wandered off the bush track, laying more bait, when one of the workers came across something that caught his attention. The council worker noticed a disturbed patch of dirt about 10-20m off the track. At first glance, he believed it could be a grave.
The worker crept in closer to get a better look, as he got closer, he observed the ‘disturbed’ dirt was a piece of wood with a small ponga fern on top. The worker told the NZ Herald on the 1st of May 2003, “It wasn't right. Why would a ponga tree be growing on top of a board?”
The city council worker then called over one of his colleagues and together they cleared the debris off the wood. Hmmm, what is this? They thought. The two workers crouched down and lifted the wood. To their shock and amazement, the piece of wood was actually a trap door, when they peered inside they discovered a plywood bunker.
The bunker was two metres long, one metre high and just over a metre wide and contained a bevy of supplies. These included a blanket, thirty three cans of drinks, fifty nine small chocolate bars, two bottles of Lindauer Special Reserve wine, Griffin's Krispie biscuits, cheese, mineral water, juice, nine bananas, twenty nine apples, and one, reportedly soggy toilet paper roll.
The bunker also had a ‘primitive toilet’, which apparently amounted to a hole in the corner and a tube of supplied air which ventilated the structure, with instructions written on the wall, “OPERATE FAN… 10 MINUITES… EVERY HOUR… FOR CIRCULATION”.
Most curious and disturbing, the plywood bunker contained a welcome message for a possible unwilling tenant. Scrawled on the wall to the right of the fan were the words: “WELCOME TO YOUR NEW HOME… MAX STAY 6 DAYS… WE WILL NOT HURT YOU”.
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