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Waiouru
Waiouru's location within New Zealand
Country  New Zealand
Region Manawatu-Wanganui
Territorial authority Ruapehu District
Ward Waimarino-Waiouru
Elevation 792 m (2,598 ft)
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 - Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Postcode 4826
Area code(s) 06
Waiouru Army Museum
The Overlander, hauled by EF 30163 near Waiouru

Waiouru is a small town in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand. It is on the North Island Volcanic Plateau, 25 kilometres south-east of Mount Ruapehu, and in the Ruapehu District.

The main attraction of Waiouru is the Queen Elizabeth II Army Memorial Museum, opened in 1978, which features static displays of New Zealand's military heritage. The rest of the township consists of a small cluster of two garages, two petrol stations, a panel beater, two motels, two taverns, a butcher and seven cafe/restaurants spread along the highway. Nearby are the yards of a roading contractor and a maintenance contractor. A small supermarket is in the Army housing area two kilometres away.

North of Waiouru is the section of State Highway 1 called the Desert Road. This runs for 35 km through the Rangipo Desert to Turangi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo. Waiouru is a military town that has grown up in conjunction with the New Zealand Army Camp and the Training Group (ATG), which is responsible for the training of recruits and other soldiers. The Desert Road immediately north of Waiouru runs through the 870 km² army training area, which lies mainly to the east of the road. The Royal NZ Navy's Irirangi communications station with its huge antennae is 2 km north of Waiouru.

Waiouru is on the North Island Main Trunk Railway, which came through in 1907. Waiouru Railway Station is the highest station (814 m) on the New Zealand rail system. The Overlander no longer (from April 2005) stops at Waiouru.

Seven kilometres to the west of Waiouru is the small settlement of Tangiwai, the site of New Zealand's worst railway disaster. On December 24, 1953 the overnight express from Wellington to Auckland passed over Tangiwai railway bridge just after it had been weakened by a lahar from Mount Ruapehu. The bridge collapsed, sending the train into the Whangaehu River, killing 151 people. Many army and naval personnel were involved in the rescue of survivors and the recovery of bodies. Sister Mortimer of the Waiouru Camp Hospital, "The Angel of Tangiwai," worked non-stop for three days tending the survivors and laying out the bodies. (Gregory)

History

Merino sheep were brought from Taupo in 1855 by missionary Tom Grace, to graze on the tussock lands in the Waiouru area. The flock was eaten by Te Kooti's warriors in 1869, and 4000 more merinos were brought over the mountains from Hawke's Bay.

By the 1890s there were 40,000 merinos on the tussock lands between Karioi bush and the Kaimanawa Ranges, and pack-tracks (formed in the 1870s, after traces of gold were discovered in 1869, 30 km north-east of Waiouru on Mr. Lyon's run at Kereru) were used to get the hundreds of tons of merino wool to Napier (The Gentle Annie track), and later to Lake Taupo (The Desert Road) or down to Wanganui (Hales' Track and Field's Track). These tracks were later developed into roads for wool wagons. By 1897 there was a coaching house at Waiouru for mail-coach passengers on the Napier-Taupo run.

The railway arrived in 1907, but by then not much wool was sent out, as overgrazing by sheep led to a plague of rabbits. By the 1930s no sheep at all could be grazed on the Waiouru sheep station. In 1939 most of the leasehold Waiouru sheep station land was taken by the Government for the Army Camp.

About 1904, Alfred Peters set up a Post Office, store and an accommodation house for travelers and for the 500 men who were digging the huge railway cuttings west of Waiouru. His descendants are still farming just east of Waiouru 100 years later, in 2007. Wally Harding began farming and developing the Waiouru sheep station in 1939, and in 1951 began aerial topdressing his farm with a war-surplus Tiger Moth. This project expanded into Wanganui Aero Work Ltd. Wallie's grandson Lockie still farms at Waiouru in 2007.

Waiouru Army Camp

The Waiouru Army Camp was established for training Territorials in the 1930s. In 1939, a month after war was declared, most of the leasehold Waiouru run was taken back by the Crown. By December 1940 a large training camp had been built, and 340 km² of land acquired for training.

From 1949 another 250 km² of land to the north and east was acquired for training, and for upgrading of the State Highway and constructing a high-voltage power line up the Moawhango valley. The base expanded for compulsory National Service and for SAS training. At its peak in the 1970s, Waiouru had a population of 6000 people, including 600 children.

In the 1980s, some army units were transferred to Linton, and by 1990 Waiouru’s permanent population had fallen to about 3000. In 2005, Waiouru’s population dropped to about 2000 with the transfer out of armoured force personnel. But the Army expects the majority of courses, particularly the more challenging ones, to be run at Waiouru.

Waiouru Airfield

The Royal New Zealand Air Force uses the sealed Waiouru Airfield (ICAO code NZRU) to the west of the camp for practice landings of Hercules transport aircraft, and Jameson Field inside the camp for helicopters.

HMNZS Irirangi

This Radio Intercept Station 2 km north of Waiouru was run by the Royal New Zealand Navy during WWII as Waiouru W/T Station, and from 1951 as HMNZS Irirangi. It has now been replaced as an Intercept Station.

See also

References

  • 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 Jnl of Ag, 16 July, 1956.
  • Newspaper cutting, 1991, - author and journal unknown.
  • Brief - Waiouru Land Acquisition, 1987 - authors unknown.
  • A. Gregory, Weekend Herald 24 Dec 2003
  • Waters, S.D. 1956, The Royal New Zealand Navy page 447 re HMNZS Irirangi

External links

Coordinates: 39°29′S 175°40′E / 39.483°S 175.667°E / -39.483; 175.667

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