Our History


By Manaaki Whanau, Waiouru School 2017.

Waiouru is often regarded as a small pitstop-like town in the district of Ruapehu. It is however much more than this.

Waiouru’s elevation is 792m above sea level and as a result, it can have harsh winter weather. As an example the average temperature for the month of July is 4 degrees celsius.

Waiouru has a population of around 890 permanent residents as at June 2016. Waiouru’s closest neighbor is Ohakune, which is 27 km away, while Taihape township is 30 km.

Waiouru’s only school is our Primary School. Also in Waiouru is also a daycare.

Waiouru is perhaps best known for its Army Base and Military Training Facility. There is a big Military Housing Area that people stay in, some permanent and some temporary. Also in the Army Base we have a 4 Square grocery store that connects to the Public Library. There is also a hairdressers, a community hall and centre and a second hand shop. Waiouru also has a large swimming pool complex, a gymnasium, a hotel and motel, a few cafes including a Subway and a Police Station.

One of the main attractions in Waiouru is the New Zealand Army Museum. Opened in October 1978, the museum is a memorial, a tribute, a research and teaching facility for New Zealand’s military history. It is open seven days a week, every day except Christmas Day and ANZAC Day morning.

From Waiouru you can see Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe, both big attractions for skiers in the winter months. Driving between Waiouru and its closest neighbour, Ohakune you will go past the site of the 1953 Tangiwai disaster memorial. On Christmas Eve in 1953 a lahar from Mt Ruapehu came crashing down the mountain destroying everything in its way. The lahar wiped out a bridge that a passenger train was about to go over and the train went crashing into the water. Tragically 151 people died. A man called Mr Arthur Bell was awarded the British Empire Medal after his courage in trying to save the train’s passengers.

Waiouru is close to the home of the famous Kaimanawa Wild Horses. Between 1858 and 1875 Major George Gwavas Carlyon imported Exmoor ponies to Hawkes Bay. These were crossed with local stock and a sure-footed pony known as the Carlyon pony resulted. The Carylon ponies were moved to the Kaimanawa Ranges, and from there many escaped or were turned loose. Since the Kaimanawa horses were released they have thrived in the wild and bred prolifically. They can sometimes be seen from the Desert Road on the way to and from Waiouru.

As you can see, there is a lot more to Waiouru than just being a pit-stop while traveling.