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Army move not the end for Waiouru camp

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/04/2016

The New Zealand Army's decision to move basic training from Waiouru to the South Island is not the end for its old facilities.

It announced on Wednesday it would make the shift to family-friendly Burnham, near Christchurch, after 2018.

Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron says he's been talking with the army about it for three years.

The move would be a loss to the district. However, the camp would still have about 400 people running it, he said.

The likes of police, Customs, youth programmes and overseas armies would still use the training facilities.

The army had applied for consents for rebuilding, the museum was expanding, and money had been spent trying to attract people there.

"If anything it's really revitalised Waiouru. We know we had to make some changes there. You can sit back and say 'woe is me', but the army says we need to be part of the community."

The army would not comment on how much the move would cost, or what would happen to the Waiouru camp buildings.

The shift has been driven in part by the families of soldiers wanting less posting churn and more choice around housing, jobs and schooling for their children, said Chief of Army Major General Peter Kelly.

"Unfortunately, as great as Waiouru is, it cannot and will never be able to provide this level of choice," he says in the March issue of Army News.

"What is clear is that the majority of our army must be located by major cities, offering you and all our military families the ability to build strong links into the local communities."

Waiouru Military Camp was established in 1940 and is the army's largest installation.

The 63,000-hectare site was "a great bit of dirt" and would continue to be the premiere training site for arms training, Maj Gen Kelly said.

"It is our largest and most important training area, and the only area in New Zealand where we can conduct combined arms live field firing training at company and battalion group level."

The relocation has been dubbed Plan Mere, and will move training for recruits and officer cadets to Burnham and use training areas in Christchurch, Tekapo and the wider South Island.

Burnham Military Camp, 28km southwest of Christchurch, had plenty of capacity to expand, Maj Gen Kelly said.

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