Although Waiouru is in geographical proximity to a number of natural resources, outdoor recreation was not a significant reason for the town or for attracting people to it.
“A small minority of people live here because of that I suppose, the skiing, the hunting, the tramping. Yep.”
While recent removal of trees around the Army camp has been seen to benefit locals by providing an abundance of available firewood in recent years, concern was held about the fact that re-plantings had not been made to ensure the sustainability of a resource that was not always easy to come by in Waiouru.
“I would like to plant a lot more trees here. The Army, in the last few years, has gone through deforestation of their own. Out on the main road all those pine trees that kept the noise of the road away from the houses, they cut them down because they thought one day a tree could fall on the road and that would be a really bad thing. So they cut them all down but never replanted with anything else. And everyone’s benefited from the firewood, so don’t get me wrong, but ah, they’ve cut down eucalyptus trees over by the museum and we’ve all had the benefit of the firewood but my mantra is, if you drop something like that there are enough people willing in the community to support a replanting because firewood here is as rare as rocking horse poo and there is vast amounts of areas that the army doesn’t use for training that could be planted in trees. The other part of it is that units usually get together, say half a dozen guys will get together, and do working bees and cut firewood. To me, that is a community activity and that is a worthy reason for planting the trees. They won’t be ready in my lifetime but we’ve had the benefit of that firewood and we should be planting them for the benefit of the community going forward.”
“But for $500 you could plant enough trees to support firewood for the whole town if you did that every year. For the next generation of soldiers and civilians. It’s so obvious it annoys me that it doesn’t get picked up! You know, for $500 on trees.”
“Some of them (local residents) don’t even have firewood. People think a trailer load is enough. People ask me when they think they have enough and I say you don’t you just keep going getting more firewood. If you have to ask that question you don’t have enough. Locals are prepared but I think new people aren’t.
There were mixed opinions about whether the community was well prepared for civil defence emergencies. A heavy snow fall in 2017 demonstrated issues that could arise during long periods of isolation.
“The one thing you get here that you don’t get in the cities is snow days. Now, it’s not that the kids can’t get to school, it’s the teachers can’t get to school. And it has an impact, a huge impact and it has a flow down affect I think if the school’s closed there’s no outside of school care and sometimes I think that maybe the staff, with the help from the Army, could be accommodated here when they know it’s likely to be a snow day. (…) Though we didn’t have one last year. But we can have three, there was a weekend when were isolated for three days. 2017, it happened to be in the school holidays. Thirty hours with no power, three days with no cell phone, 30 cm of snow sitting on the ground…. That was an absolute nightmare because if there’d been a crash, anything, we couldn’t get a helicopter, couldn’t ring (…), and then even when the main road opened the roading contractors had ploughed a couple of streets and pushed all the snow into people’s driveways so they couldn’t get out. We were really close as a community to being… if we’d been stuck another day. There were those with heat-pumps instead of fires, and there were people running low on medication and we were going to need four-wheel drives to get those people out. Luckily it didn’t turn into freeze straight after the snow. It’s luck, eh.”
“We’d like to think (we’re prepared for civil defence emergencies) but we’re not. I think the army had a bit of a wakeup call, that snow emergency sort of shook things up a wee bit. See, they’ve got a diesel generator that’s big enough to run their entire camp and the housing area but they didn’t open it up to the housing area. They actually have that available. The kicker is that they have a 25000-litre diesel tank and their fall back is when that runs out they’ll go to * Energy and get it from there, but * doesn’t have a generator! So in that first 24 hours they used 12000 so they were only two days away from running out. If it had been a day longer they Army couldn’t have helped us if they tried.”
“Snow places a burden on everyone. We would like to see the roads closed early but the road crews are paid to keep the roads open. We are fighting a bureaucracy that is working against each other. I wouldn’t like to see the roads closed early and everyone who doesn’t live in Waiouru out of here. What happens is the roading crews keep the roads open and then we get a whole blockage of people stuck here, freezing. So that one in 2017 we had to find beds for 65 people… So we rely heavily on the Army to provide emergency accommodation for people.”