Waiouru Military Camp

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Waiouru Military Camp
Waiouru, New Zealand
NZ Army soldiers with NZLAVs
New Zealand Army soldiers with NZLAVs during "Exercise Hellfire" at Waiouru Army Camp in 2009
Waiouru Military Camp is located in New Zealand
Waiouru Military Camp
Waiouru Military Camp
Coordinates39°28′13″S 175°40′49″E / 39.4704°S 175.6803°E / -39.4704; 175.6803
TypeArmy Camp
Site information
OwnerNew Zealand Defence Force
Controlled byCrest of the New Zealand Army.jpg New Zealand Army
Site history
In use1939–present

Waiouru Military Camp is a camp of the New Zealand Army in the central North Island of New Zealand near Waiouru.

All New Zealand Army soldiers complete their initial basic training, the All Arms Recruit Course (AARC), at Waiouru Military Camp.[1] The camp is also the site of the army marae. The marae is the home of Ngati Tumatauenga, literally 'the tribe of the God of War', the Māori phrase for the New Zealand Army.

Military camp[edit]

The New Zealand government chose the sheep station at Waiouru as the location of a North Island training area for its Territorial Forces in the 1930s. The sheep station had large areas of inexpensive open land, and existing road and rail access to the North Island coastline. The artillery was the first branch of the New Zealand Army to use Waiouru. In 1937, Waiouru farmhand Cedric Arthur wrote:

The Military (artillery) Camp is here again for its annual big shoot, so Waiouru is exceedingly busy with huge lorries, tractors, guns and horses, not to mention soldiers galore.... It has been rumoured around here that the Minister of Defence has bought 15 miles of Waiouru to make a permanent Camp here. (Arthur 1984)

A month after the declaration of World War II in 1939, most of the leasehold Waiouru run was taken back by the Crown.

Wartime camp[edit]

At the beginning of the winter of 1940, 800 construction workers from the Ministry of Works built a training camp with capacity for 7,000 Territorial soldiers. Within six weeks 25,000 tons of building materials had arrived at Waiouru Railway Station. 450,000 tonnes of earth was shifted to make a flat area for the camp. At the same time, hundreds of soldiers camped under canvas in the snow and completed extensive field training.

By Christmas 1940, there were 230 buildings erected, served by 20 km (12 mi) of streets, and 8 km (5.0 mi) each of water mains, power lines and sewers. By mid-1941, seven regimental camps housed 7,000 soldiers. There was a bakery, a hospital, two film theatres and five "institutes", each with a concert hall, library, writing room and tearooms. However, there were no bars; soldiers had to go to Taihape to buy a beer. An Armoured Fighting Vehicle School and a Command and Staff School at Waiouru were established in August 1941.[2] By the end of the war, £1.2 million (NZ$2.4 million) had been spent on developing the camp, and 340 km2 (130 sq mi) of land had been acquired for training.[3]


More land was required for the camp by 1949. Plans were made to upgrade the Desert Road track through the artillery range to a major State Highway and build a high-voltage power line to transfer power up the Moawhango valley. The Army Schools at Trentham were to be transferred to Waiouru, compulsory military training was about to commence and, as defence responsibilities shifted to South-East Asia, the Army needed forests for jungle warfare training. These considerations resulted in another 250 km2 (97 sq mi) of land to the north and east of the camp being acquired by the New Zealand Government. In 1955, the 1st NZSAS Squadron started jungle training in Paradise Valley, part of the newly acquired area.[3]

Waiouru's busiest years[edit]

Compulsory military training was carried out at Waiouru from 1950 to 1958, and balloted national service from 1962 to 1972. In 1978, the National Army Museum opened at Waiouru, and in 1985 the Officer Cadet School of New Zealand. These were busiest years at Waiouru. 100 recreational clubs were active in the 1970s and 80s: the Ski Club alone had 300 members. At the time, Waiouru had a population of 6,000 people, including 600 children.

Declining use[edit]

In the 1980s some training was discontinued, and some army units were transferred to Linton. By 1990 Waiouru's permanent population had fallen to about 3,000. However, several hundred additional service personnel participated in training at Waiouru at any given time. In 1991, nearly three thousand soldiers were trained in Waiouru on 275 courses.[4]

With the reorganisation of armoured force personnel in 2005, and their departure from Army Training Group, Waiouru's population fell to about 2,000, but it was still often-used training area due to its central location and 600 km2 (230 sq mi) of varied landforms. The 1,400 beds in the barracks were frequently full, with more personnel using satellite camps or sleeping in the field.

Waiouru continues to be the base for TAD (The Army Depot) and is the integral training base for the New Zealand Army. Most of the service people currently posted to Waiouru support training courses including the All Arms Recruit Course (basic training).


In April 2004, regarding the future of the camp, Major General Jerry Mateparae stated that Waiouru was a strong factor in defining the Army, and the majority of courses, especially the more challenging ones, are run there.[5] The camp also houses the School of Military Intelligence and Security for the New Zealand Intelligence Corps.

Singapore connection[edit]

As part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the Ministry of Defence (New Zealand) and the Ministry of Defence (Singapore) the live-firing range of the camp had been used by the Singapore Army for the test firing of their 155 mm howitzer guns—such as the FH-88, FH-2000, SLWH Pegasus and the SSPH Primus since 1985. On several occasions, Waiouru army camp has also hosted the visiting Singapore Army's artillery battalion during bi-lateral military training exercises.[6]


On 9 March 1997, a 155 mm artillery round exploded in the barrel of an FH-2000 howitzer during a live firing exercise conducted by the 23rd Battalion, Singapore Artillery, of the Singapore Army at the artillery range of Waiouru Army Camp. This resulted in the death of two full-time Singaporean national servicemen; Third Sergeant Ronnie Tan Han Chong and Lance Corporal Low Yin Tit. 12 other servicemen also were injured in the incident, including a Staff Sergeant from New Zealand Army, who was part of a group of New Zealand Defence Force liaison officer/observer to the visiting SAF battalion.[7]

The explosion was attributed to a defective fuse. The loading force of the round was found to be a contributing factor.[citation needed]

Royal New Zealand Navy[edit]

The Royal New Zealand Navy's Waiouru Wireless Telegraph Station was commissioned in July 1943 and at the height of the war had an establishment of about 150 personnel, of whom more than eighty were women. Tens of thousands of code groups were handled each day, mostly for the British Pacific Fleet in Japanese waters. A dozen or more circuits were manned simultaneously, and teleprinter land lines fed the signals to the Navy Office. In 1951, it was designated HMNZS Irirangi (Maori for spirit voice). It is now manned by only a small contingent of naval maintenance staff.

Waiouru Airfield[edit]

From World War II until 2001, the Royal New Zealand Air Force A-4 Skyhawks and Aermacchi MB-339 fighter jets used the Army's artillery target areas in the Rangipo Desert and east of the Moawhango River as bombing and rocket ranges. The RNZAF maintains Jameson Field inside the camp for its NH-90 and A-109 helicopters and practices landing a number of its Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft on the sealed Waiouru Airfield (ICAO Code NZRU) to the west of the camp.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Basic Training". Defence Careers. New Zealand Defence Force. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  2. ^ Croom, (1941)
  3. ^ a b Brief, (1987)
  4. ^ Newspaper, 1991
  5. ^ Army News, 13 April 2004
  6. ^ "New Zealand Defence Force update: The Singapore connection". NZDF Defence Update Newsletter. 23 April 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  7. ^ "The 155mm Gun Howitzer Chamber Explosion on 9 March 1997 in New Zealand". Singapore Ministry of Defence. 28 June 1997. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  • Arthur, P.M., 1984, Waiouru, Land of the Tussock, 1935–40.
  • Croom, F.G., 1941, The History of the Waiouru Military Camp.
  • Moss, G.R., 1956, The Waiouru Tussock Lands, NZ Journal of Agriculture, 16 July 1956.
  • Newspaper cutting, 1991, author and journal unknown.
  • Brief – Waiouru Land Acquisition, 1987, authors unknown.
  • A. Gregory, Weekend Herald, 24 December 2003

External links[edit]