Officers' mess returns to dining roots
It has been a long road for Auckland restaurateur Jeremy Schmid who hopes to bring Fort Takapuna's officers' mess back to its roots as a dining institution.
Schmid, who owns the award-winning bistro Two Fifteen in Mt Eden, teamed up with North Shore teacher Fiona Bias two years ago to investigate turning the historic officers' mess hall into a restaurant and reception venue.
Last month the Department of Conservation granted them a 10-year lease, but only after a process which was dragged out for almost a year because of opposition from Paul Majurey on behalf of the Marutuahu iwi.
The opposition from Majurey centred on the grounds that the Crown was in direct Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the Marutuahu iwi over the area.
"Everything has taken a lot longer than I thought," Schmid said.
"Because it's DOC they're having to do everything by the book."
DOC decided to go through with the lease, pointing out that to date there is no agreement in principal or any other public milestone document between the Crown and the iwi relating to the Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve.
A report says it has been a priority for DOC to find a suitable party to run the officers' mess as a cafe and functions venue for several years.
DOC's acting Auckland area office manager Phil Brown said the partnership offered the chance to secure the long-term preservation of a unique piece of the North Shore's history.
"After carefully considering a wide range of local points of view, we've entered an agreement that will see the building restored and renovated, and historic values of the building maintained and enhanced."
Public access to the reserve and the buildings will be increased through events such as SculptureOnShore and use of the officers' mess for community events.
Schmid and Bias are hoping to turn the historic mess hall, which had a long history of feeding army and navy personnel, into a family-oriented restaurant and weekend cafe.
The building will also be available for weddings and functions.
The pair are working through the process of gaining the required consents from council with a tentative opening date of next autumn.