NZDF Land Gifted Back to Iwi

Land used by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) to provide valuable support to ships during the Second World War has been vested back to Ngāti Rangi, a central North Island iwi.

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The move to gift back the land at Irirangi, 77 hectares of land five kilometres south of Waiouru, is part of the NZDF’s Treaty of Waitangi Settlement commitments, under the Ngati Rangi Claims Settlement Act 2019, and within seven days Ngāti Rangi will gift the land back to the NZDF as a gift to the people of New Zealand.

Royal New Zealand Navy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral David Proctor, speaking during the blessing and unveiling of a toka (an argillite boulder collected from Whangaehu River) and plaque at Irirangi, acknowledged the significant sacrifice Ngāti Rangi had made to allow continued use of the land by the NZDF to provide security and protection to all New Zealanders.

“The NZDF has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Ngāti Rangi and looks forward to strengthening this through working collaboratively and cooperatively to identify future opportunities,” Rear Admiral Proctor said.

Ngāti Rangi chairman and lead negotiator Che Wilson said it was a day of reflection and commemoration for the people of Ngāti Rangi.

“It is a time to reflect on the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, as we look towards the promise of tomorrow for our people,” Mr Wilson said.

“One of our guiding principles for Treaty settlement has been kia mau ki te wairua o Te Tiriti o Waitangi (hold fast to the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi), and this day acknowledges our commitment to that kaupapa.”

The vesting and gifting back is part of a redress framework agreed by the NZDF and Ngāti Rangi.

Irirangi, meaning “frequencies that float among the Heavens”, was established in 1942 and was commissioned as HMNZS Irirangi in1951.

The site provided valuable support to ships at sea for the remainder of the Second World War. At its wartime peak the station had about 150 officers and ratings, 80 of whom were women, who did most of the operating.

Today the facility is operated remotely by the Naval Communications Station at Devonport Naval Base and a small number of staff remain to maintain the site.

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10 Responses to NZDF Land Gifted Back to Iwi

  1. gunther says:

    How come no one knew about this and if they did why wasn’t it promulgated.

    • Frank Rands says:

      Notice of this first came in an email from NZDF but after much tooing and froing it looked like there was an invitation of ONE. Not sure if Frank Lewis might have attended as he was in the area.

      • Frank Lewis says:

        Yes Frank, Gary Houghton and myself attended on behalf of RNZN Comms Assn and ex HMNZS Irirangi Service members. Am awaiting photos from NZDF, once received will post.

  2. Butts says:

    Agree Gunther, Irirangi holds a very important place in my own personal history, and I can see that it is the same for everyone that I served with. Wish I had known about this.

  3. John Bullock says:

    I guess Defence will now be paying a lease to the Iwi for the use of the land as the facility is still being used remotely by the Naval Communications Station at Devonport Naval Base.

  4. Owen Stuart says:

    Not if the news article is correct

    “Ngati Rangi Claims Settlement Act 2019, and within seven days Ngāti Rangi will gift the land back to the NZDF as a gift to the people of New Zealand.”

    “The vesting and gifting back is part of a redress framework agreed by the NZDF and Ngāti Rangi.”

  5. JimD says:

    Have been advised by Civvy Tech at Waiouru, Dennis Judd, ex-LRF, that Paul Howell, civvy tech, ex-PORM, was awarded a certificate of commendation for 55 years service to Defence. The award was made by CN at the above ceremony. Bravo Zulu Skin!

  6. Gary Houghton says:

    This was not a public event. Ngāti Rangi were the lead for the event and wanted it kept low key, not a full military guard and band type event. NZDF participation in the event was under the control of the Defence Establishments and Infrastructure Branch of HQNZDF, which effectively manage all NZDF establishments/barracks/bases now. They were the ones who were involved with the negations with Ngāti Rangi for the transfer of the land. Navy had no direct involvement with the event; CN himself was not there in his CN role, but as the representative of CDF. DEI set the number of people able to attend under the NZDF delegation and approved who got invitations.
    The RNZN Communications Association received an invitation, although if there hadn’t been an ex-Comms officer in Navy staff in Wellington I am not sure that we would have got that. The invitation was arranged in acknowledgement of HMNZS Irirangi’s history as a Navy establishment and the site of NAVCOMMSTA Waiouru. With only one invitation my intention was to have Frank Lewis attend, in recognition of his efforts (still ongoing) in trying to get the Irirangi site listed as an Historic Place under Heritage NZ. However, further lobbying by the officer managed to get a second invitation out of DEI for Frank as the Ex-Irirangi Communicators group. So both he and I attended the event.
    It was an interesting day. The ceremonies at the Raketapauma Marae were quite moving. I’m not sure how many of those who served in the old Irirangi actually knew there was a marae about three kms further down the road, I admit I didn’t. Those who did drive further down Waiaruhe Road would not have seen the marae down the Maukuku Road turnoff as until recently there was a tall stand of pine trees hiding the marae from view. It was also interesting to visit where the old NR1 and NR2 buildings used to be, now known as Defence Communications Facility Irirangi. The plaque commemorating the transfer of the land is mounted outside the Naval Receivers Complex building, which was opened in 1990, but is now unused and completely gutted inside apart from a fully equipped galley (assumedly still operational). I am surprised that they haven’t demolished the building as it seems to serve no useful purpose now.

  7. Peter ROBB says:

    It was a dream draft for Sparkers, great relationships with the local community (hay bailing) when needed, great fun with the Nursing fraternity in Taihape, the Camp had the BEST rugby field in the whole district, those who wanted one got issued with the thick white submariner jersey’s – because it got bloody cold there. Mushrooms galore in season, rabbits if you wanted to shoot them, water cress everywhere, Turangi THC just up the road and the piece de resistance, the best driver/pick up service ever.
    Very fond memories.

  8. gunther says:

    Just received my copy of navy today..shocked to see a quote from myself in the Irirangi hand over. I have never written to navy today about my experiences at Irirangi, so im guessing they picked this up fm the Irirangi facebook page..to which i wrote quote ” train arrived around 1-30 in the morning, got off and i was the only one there, very cold, frost on the ground very clear night. Waited 15 odd minutes for the bus to pick me up to take me to Irirangi. cabins were four berth and cold, blankets being the order of the day. Any punishment ordered was automatically a head to the wood pile to cut up logs to be used in heating the establishment”..or words to that effect..i also noted the admiral defending the new order…i wonder when we will see him setting the style, with long hair, earrings, and a moustache.. a “tui” moment you think????..

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