US Marines in New Zealand

In the day, Camp Paekākāriki covered a significant area of Paekākāriki village, east of Wellington Road between Queen Elizabeth Park and Tarawa Street. It was the largest of three Paekākāriki camps built in 1943 and housed 5,200 men from the 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division. Together, the three camps (Paekākāriki, Russell and Mackay accommodated over 15,000 men. The Wellington region was home to 25,000 Marines from 1942-44.

Built in about seven weeks, the decision to build the Paekākāriki camp sites was triggered by America entering World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941. Essentially, U.S. Marines were sent here to prepare for the Pacific War, while at the same time protecting the country from the imminent threat of Japanese invasion.

At the beginning of April 1942, the land included Māori land, farms and a golf course. Six weeks later, when the American troopships arrived, Camp Paekākāriki stretched all the way south to Tarawa Street and across to the main highway. Only 530 people lived in Paekākāriki village at the time when Camp Paekākāriki housed 5,200 Marine infantrymen. It was an instant town. The camp included 782 tent decks and several hundred other buildings including a bulk store, administration blocks, shower blocks and drying rooms, officers’, sergeants’ and men’s mess buildings, two hospital wards, canteens and cooking shelters, a dry ration and vegetable.

The layout of Camp Paekākāriki


This is an aerial view of Camp Paekākāriki in 1943. It stretches east from the mouth of Wainui Stream (1) to the railway and south to Tarawa Street where Paekākāriki School is today (2).

The main entrance was from the highway near the end of the escarpment, close to the school (3), which was then located between the road and the railway. The other entrance was on Wellington Road, just below the centre of the photo (4).

In the distance at upper left was a transport depot serving all three camps (5). Each unit had its cluster of tents or huts, served by mess rooms, galleys (cookhouses), showers and latrines (toilets). Larger buildings were recreation halls and hospital wards.

To the right of the mouth of Wainui Stream you can just see the home of Miriona Budge (6), the mother of Jean Andrews. Historic Wainui pā (7) and its urupā (8) were partly covered by the camp.

Overlooking the scene are the two hills acknowledged in the Ngati Haumia pepeha – Wainui and Pouawha (Paekākāriki Hill).

The camp included 782 tent decks and several hundred other buildings including: a bulk store, administration blocks, shower blocks and drying rooms, officers, sergeants and men's mess buildings, canteens and cooking shelters, a dry ration and vege store, a meat and milk store and an ammunition store.

The camp also included two hospitals, one north of Te Miti Street, and the other between Haumia and Horomoana Streets.

Remnants of foundations and some of the original tent floors from the camp are still in evidence at the [Paekākāriki Holiday Park] and are used as sites for caravans even today.

Other remnants include: pieces of asphalt road, the Smith's Creek water intake, the Rail Air Shed on State Highway 1, (originally a food storage depot for the camps), and the Heritage New Zealand recently designated category 1 World War II Blast Wall Tank.