Westlawn Hut

Argo Road, Waioru Military Camp, Waiouru

  • Westlawn Hut. North elevation showing entrance way and lean-to.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Emma Brooks. Date: 26/10/2004.
  • Interior view - note adzed timbers on ceiling.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Emma Brooks. Date: 26/10/2004.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7610 Date Entered 24th June 2005

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Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the building, its fixtures and the land contined within the fenced off area (as shown in Appendix 4 of the Registration Report, Photos 1-3) in Oruamatua Kaimanawa 2Q1.

City/District Council

Ruapehu District

Region

Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Oruamatua Kaimanawa 2Q1. (Defence NZ Gazette 1961 p.315)

Location description

Westlawn Hut is situated at Waioru Military Camp on Argo Road. Travel along Moawhango Bridge Road past the Burridge Estate Road turn-off and continue in a northeasterly direction onto Argo Road rather than following Moawhango bridge Road, which turns sharply off to the north. Continue along Ago Road past the turn-off to Noname Road on the right and over the Moawhango River. Westlawn Hut is located further along Argo Road on the left side of the road opposite the modern Army hut.

Summaryopen/close

Westlawn Hut is situated at Waiouru Military Camp on Argo Road. It is understood to have been built around 1900 for the musterers working on Ohinewairua Station, and is a historical reminder of Waiouru's pastoral industry that began in the 1870s and continued through to the mid 20th century. The land on which Westlawn Hut is located was gazetted for defence purposes in 1961 and the hut began to be used recreationally by soldiers from Waiouru Military Camp until a more modern hut was constructed across the road. Westlawn Hut has been described as a fine example of early twentieth century rural architecture. It is a simple rectangular slab construction hut with a gable at each end. The entrance faces to the north and there is a bush chimney at the eastern elevation. A lean-to was later added to the right of the door and there was a small verandah and wooden stand to the left of the door but these structures are no longer extant. The interior of the hut has a timber floor that has been laid directly onto the ground surface and there are two twin bunks constructed out of adzed timber running along the northern and southern sides.

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Historical Significance or Value

Westlawn Hut has considerable historical significance, as a physical reminder of Waiouru's pastoral industry that began in 1855 when Reverend Thomas Grace first introduced sheep onto the Waiouru tussock lands from the Taupo end of the "Desert". These sheep were exterminated by Te Kooti's army during the Waikato Wars however and it was not until 1879 that a second attempt was made at the introduction of pastoralism, this time from Hawke's Bay. 4000 Merinos were supplied from the sheep station of Sir Donald McLean at Maraekakaho (on State Highway 50 between Waipukurau and Napier) and also from Clifton Station and Cape Kidnappers. The first flocks were owned by Moorhouse, Morrin, Russell and the Studholme brothers who worked a 200 000 acre area that roughly comprised the Murimotu and Rangipo-Waiu survey blocks and became known as the Murimotu run. The partnership later fell apart as a result of Morrin and Russell's bankruptcy and Moorehouse's withdrawl . Studholme became the sole lessee in 1884 and by 1888 the run had a carrying capacity of 35 000 - 40 000 sheep. The run headquarters were originally based at Karioi (about halfway between Waiouru and Ohakune), which boasted an accommodation house, race course and store and was the resting place for travellers between Taupo and Pipiriki. The shepherds' huts were located at Waiouru, which was later established as a township with the shifting of the Karioi accommodation house to Waiouru. Further stations such as Ohinewairua were established in the high country to the east of Waiouru and pastoralism continued until the land was taken back by the Crown for defence purposes during the period from 1939 to 1961.

Westlawn Hut has been described as a "fine example of early twentieth century rural architecture". Various components of the original building fabric have been replaced but the only change to the form of the hut is the removal of the verandah and wooden stand to the left of the door. Westlawn Hut has architectural value as it is a rare example of a North Island musterer's hut and is one of the oldest slab huts left in New Zealand. Westlawn Hut also possesses one of the few remaining examples of 'bush chimneys' that were built on a number of early colonial shelters, particularly in the Coromandel Peninsula area.

Westlawn Hut has aesthetic significance as it is positioned within a spectacular physical setting. It stands alone within a bush setting at an elevation of 1372 metres above sea level and provides commanding views of the surrounding landscape.

Westlawn Hut was initially occupied by musterers in the early to mid 20th century and continued to be used by the Army when the land was acquired by the New Zealand Defence Force in 1961. Former musterer Ian Sinclair has fond memories of Westlawn Hut during his time at Ohinewairua Station in the 1940s and 1950s as the hut was a place where musterers came together to eat, sleep and socialise after a long, hard day of work. One of his strongest memories of Westlawn Hut was when he was out mustering in the dark and caught sight of a light radiating from the hut as one of the musterers had been sent ahead to prepare dinner. Westlawn Hut also has social and cultural significance to many Army personnel who retreated there during their leisure time for recreational purposes. Army personnel spoke fondly of Westlawn Hut during our site visit and their continued active management will ensure that this historic asset is protected for future generations.

a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history.

Westlawn Hut is historically significant as it is a physical reminder of the pastoral endeavours of European settlers in the Waiouru region in the late 19th century. It is testament to early runholders such as Studholme and A.C Morton of Waiouru who operated successful sheep stations on the tussock lands that had previously only been occupied intermittently by Maori. At a more general level, Westlawn Hut also reflects the wider historical trend of European 'cultivation' of the rugged New Zealand landscape through economic activities such as farming and forestry from the mid 19th century.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history.

It is understood that Westlawn Hut was constructed around 1900 for musterers working on Ohinewairua station and thus it is possible that an archaeological investigation of the hut and the immediate surrounding environment including the bush could reveal important information about the lives of musterers around the turn of the century.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place.

Westlawn Hut has been a significant component of the Waiouru military landscape for over fifty years. Army personnel at Waiouru have a sense of attachment to the hut, which was formerly used recreationally by soldiers during their leisure. The Army's pride in Westlawn Hut is reflected by their desire to ensure its protection. Maintenance work is done when required and the hut and immediate surrounding landscape are marked as an area of 'permanent restricted activity' on the Army's Army Training Group (ATG) Training Area NZMS 260 map (Edition 2, 2003: unclassified). A sign also states that no one is to enter Westlawn Hut without special authority from the ATG headquarters.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places.

Westlawn Hut is rare within an historical and architectural context as it is one of the few remaining examples of a North Island musterer's hut and one of the oldest slab huts left in New Zealand. It also possesses one of the few surviving examples of a 'bush chimney'.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape.

Westlawn Hut is an integral part of a historical and cultural landscape at Waiouru that reflects both Maori and European occupation and use of this land from the 1870s through to the mid 20th century. Other components of this landscape include the two gunfighter pa at the nearby locality of Waiu and the Homestead at Waiouru that was built in 1905 by A.C. Morton who was the lessee of Runs 1 and 3 between Turangi and Karioi.

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Historical Narrative

Westlawn Hut is believed to have been built around 1900 for the musterers working on Ohinewairua Station, one of the larger farms in the Taihape region. Westlawn Hut continued to be used by Ohinewairua Station musterers through to the 1950s. Ian Sinclair stayed at Westlawn Hut whilst mustering at Ohinewairua in the mid 1940s to early 1950s and provides a description of life at the hut in his book 'Boot in the Stirrup' (1973).

Ian Sinclair also recalled that the lean-to at the front of Westlawn Hut housed their saddlery and beech firewood, and told of one particular occasion when they were stuck at the hut because of heavy snow and decided to build kennels for their dogs out of beech logs and sods of earth in the nearby horse paddock.He describes Westlawn as "a comfortable hut in the days I mustered on Ohinewairua having reasonable bunks and a grand fireplace" and Ralph Lowry, a fellow musterer and former owner of Ohinewairua Station also writes that Westlawn Hut "was like coming into real comfort" in comparison to the camp at Fisher's Hope (another station run). The Army began to acquire the land around Waiouru in the late 1930s but the Oruamatua-Kaimanawa blocks were not gazetted for defence purposes until 1961. Westlawn Hut continued to be used, mainly by soldiers for recreational purposes, and a number of repairs and restorations were undertaken. Overnight stays at Westlawn Hut are now a rare occurrence as a "larger more modern facility" has been constructed.

Physical Description

Westlawn Hut is a simple rectangular slab construction hut with a gable at each end. The entrance faces to the north and there is a 'bush chimney' at the eastern elevation. 'Bush chimneys' had a wooden frame and were clad in corrugated iron, which was expected to act as a fire-resistant material! They were more common than brick chimneys in the early settlement of the Coromandel Peninsula region but the high conductivity rate of corrugated iron resulted in frequent fires and few examples remain today. A lean-to was later added to the right of the door and there was a small verandah and wooden stand to the left of the door but these structures are no longer extant. The interior of the hut has a timber floor that has been laid directly onto the ground surface and there are two twin bunks constructed out of adzed timber running along the northern and southern sides.

Notable Features

Bush chimney

Hand-adzed timbers

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1900 - 1910

Construction Details

Gabled hut of slab construction with adzed timber framing. The exterior of the hut is clad entirely in corrugated iron.

Completion Date

1st June 2005

Report Written By

Jo Wylie

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

G.R. Moss, 'Early history and present land development of the Waiouru tussock lands'. Located in MS-Papers-1008-37: Smart, Maxwell James Grant 1898-1972, Alexander Turnbull Library, n.d.

Fearnley, 1986

C. Fearnley, 'Colonial Style: Pioneer Buildings of New Zealand,' Auckland, 1986

Kelly, nd

M. Kelly, 'New Zealand Defence Force - Heritage Inventory: Westlawn Hut', Wellington, n.d.

Lowry, 1985

R. Lowry, 'Taihape: Be Happy, Die Happy,' Taihape, 1985.

Sinclair, 1973

I. Sinclair, Boot in the Stirrup, Wellington, 1973.

Other Information

Land taken for Defence purposes - New Zealand Gazette (1961:315)

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.