US Marines in New Zealand

From 16 June 1942 to 1 November 1943, Whareroa Farm was one of three training camps for 15,000 American troops in and around Paekākāriki.

The Camp housed 4,650 men and was built on the flat plateau, south of the current entrance to Whareroa Farm. At the time, the site was considered ideal for a Marines’ camp: close to bush (for jungle training), to a beach (for landing practice) and beside the railway and main road to Wellington.

At the time, it was owned by the Wellington Hospital Board for a future tuberculosis santorium site and unoccupied so this made it even more advantageous.

Men from the 5th Marines Regiment of the 1st Marine Division were the first to march down the highway to the camp, only staying for 36 days until they sailed for Guadalcanal on 22 July.

The 6th Marines (2nd Marine Division) camped there from November 4 to December 26, 1942 until they too sailed for Guadalcanal on July 22 1943. When the entire 2nd Marine Division returned to New Zealand, the 2nd Marines Regiment occupied Camp Mackay until November 1, 1943, when their fleet sailed to the Battle of Tarawa.

US Marines in New Zealand

Camp Mackay included 25 concrete tent floors, which accommodated two, four and eight-man tents as other camps did. It also included a large number of Officers’ Billets, an Officers’ Club, three recreational buildings, the Divisional Headquarters and accompanying accommodation, a canteen, a bulk store, a brig (jail), ablution blocks, laundries and showers.

Originally, the land on which the camp was based, was one of a number of cultivation areas of Māori related to Ngāti Toarangatira iwi. It was subsequently sold to the Mackay family, the first European occupiers of the land, hence the name Mackays Crossing.

Remnants from this camp, highlighted in the Marines Walkway include: concrete water supply supports, a concrete floor from the old recreation building, a reservoir intake, an old dump site, and marker boulders.