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Waiouru

The Desert Road and Army Museum


The Desert Road and Waiouru Army Museum

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By Richard Moore

WaiouruThe central plateau of New Zealand's North Island is famous for its proximity to some terrific ski fields - such as Turoa and Whakapapa - and the wild terrain of the Desert Road.

The rugged nature of the central plateau makes it the perfect place to have a major training area for the army and there are plenty of signs around telling you it is dangerous to get off the main road at certain places.

Speaking of the New Zealand army there is an excellent museum at the town of Waiouru on the Desert Road. If you are driving to or from the snow slopes, or are on your way to somewhere else, then a few hours spent at the Waiouru Army Museum is recommended for those who like history.

WaiouruThe army museum is located in an imposing building that gives little idea as to what is inside, however, the tanks and artillery pieces surrounding it offer a pretty good clue as to its raison d'etre.

Within its walls exhibits and displays cover the entire range of New Zealand's participation in war, from the Maori Wars through to the peacekeeping operations Kiwi troops are currently engaged in.

The Waiouru Army Museum is laid out in a chronological order of conflict and this guides you through the military history of a nation that has spent a lot of time fighting side by side with Australian troops.

But New Zealand had its own major war when the local Maori tribes fought back against European settlement in what was known as the Maori Wars, but is now the more PC Land Wars.

WaiouruThe Maoris gave one heck of a good account of themselves militarily and used not only guerrilla tactics to great effect, but also perfected the art of trench warfare a generation before the slaughterhouse of World War One.

From there it is the Boer War in South Africa where, like Aussies, Kiwis fought overseas for their first major conflict. Next up it's World War One and Gallipoli, the Second World War - the campaigns in Greece, Crete, North Africa and the Pacific - Korea, Malaya, Vietnam and service with the United Nations.

The various displays include militaria, dioramas, weapons, uniforms, personal stories and large scenes using life-size models and military hardware such as tanks and armoured cars.

One of the most impressive, if not the best collection on show, is the Army Museum's medal alcove where they display many top ranking awards including Victoria Crosses the highest Commonwealth award for bravery in the face of the enemy cast in the metal of Russian cannons captured during the Crimean War.

WaiouruThe most poignant part of the museum is the Tears on Greenstone waterwall that represents every New Zealander who has died in war.

It is a wall - the largest jade structure in the Southern Hemisphere - with a veil of water representing grief and new life. The names of those killed are spoken in alphabetical order.

On a more commercial aspect, the Army Museum has a cafeteria and gift shop on site, as well as a military archive and research library.


The Army Museum Waiouru is open 9.00 am - 4.30pm every day, except Christmas Day.

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