Waiouru Museum


The Army has a museum at Waiouru. I have never seen it, but one way or another it keeps getting into my life. I have been to Waiouru several times, but all those trips were before the museum was built. My opinion of the place has never changed. It is a desolate and isolated and well fitted for what it, an Army camp. But completely the wrong place to site a museum.


My story starts when a National Bank Architect, Dyson, I can’t now remember his Christian name, called to get my opinion as a member of The Returned Soldiers Assn. This was relating to the construction of a proposed Military Museum. A commendable concept, and it was further proposed that, it was to be situated at Waiouru. He was in charge of the steering committee, and things had progressed to the point, where they now had concept drawings. Unfortunately for me, and voicing my feelings regarding to where the museum was to be built, I suggested that, this was bad planning, and I tossed cold water on the scheme, further more, I considered the whole idea was balmy. This was not the reply he expected. So I didn’t get asked again for any further input. I added, the only redeeming feature that I could see was, you could buy land at ‘give away’ prices in Waiouru. In my opinion the whole idea was stupid, not a practical concept no matter how you looked at it. The one thing they were missing and that was foot traffic, which in this case would always be limited. Visitors could only be obtained from passing traffic, which always would be small in number. Nobody would be making a dedicated visit to this place, situated more or less out in the wilderness.


However I was to become mixed up in museum matters again. About this time, a son in law of Georges Montagnat, decided he wanted to mine some of the rivers on the West Coast for Gold. George said ‘Would I take financial control of the operation, and he would give me 10% of the operation’? Told him I had no faith what so ever in the operation, and certainly didn’t want or need the 10% sweetener. Investigation showed that there was gold in the rivers, but it was in deep crevices covered by very large boulders which would need to be removed to get at the pay dirt. Unfortunately scattered here and there, were large lumps of good quality greenstone, which soon attracted, ‘son in laws’ attention. Gold was quickly forgotten, and greenstone was now the moneymaker. This revenue was never put through the company’s account, being treated as a personal enterprise. As luck would have it, a $50,000 contract was obtained to build a Greenstone wall. Yes, you guessed it, for the Waiouru Museum. It was called, ‘The wall of tears’. Well named for what happened later. The Maoris by now had been alerted, and they went after the money. ‘Son in law’, ended up in court, and was lucky to get off and ended up with a substantial fine. No profit in that operation, so after the dust settled, I wrapped up the operation, and shipped the diggers over to New Caledonia.


The museum was completed and it became the Nation’s repository of military stuff, as well as valuable medal and memorabilia that families had intrusted into their care. This trust was betrayed as security was so lax. Thieves broke in and stole many sets of valuable medals. These were recovered after paying what amounted to a ransom. Now we have discovered this month that it looks like that the curator has been guilty of maybe helping himself too, perhaps even stolen and selling many sets of medals. Sometimes the Military are incredibly stupid. These items are valuable and easily sold. Have these buffoons never heard of audits. Anyway I have just come off the phone and was talking about visitation. This person said that they had twice called into the museum while motoring to the North, but that was yesterday. Today we fly to most places and that makes the place even more isolated.


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