New Zealand, D9930

Camp Kaitawa and Outdoor Education

Camp Kaitawa is a former H.B. Education Board school building on the boundary of the Te Urewera National Park, and has been used as an outdoor education facility for school groups since 1967. Over this 40 year period the Rotary Club of Taradale has made an outstanding contribution towards the Camp. This has been in the form of people power, money, materials and expertise of various members and their contacts. Work undertaken with the assistance of Taradale Rotary includes the following.

  • Building an ablution block, woodshed, store shed, covered way, toilet block,

  • 4 new Chalets and adding a disabled toilet area.

  • The wooden exterior windows have been replaced with aluminium.

  • The dining room has been extended and the kitchen completely refitted from the floor up.

The drying room and showers have received major renovations and the exterior of the main building has been painted. The tennis court fence has been replaced and a track cut to Lake Wherowhero to enable the new canoes to be launched. The manger's house has been repainted and the kitchen upgraded.


It is estimated that over 60,000 pupils and many adults have gained outdoor experience at the Camp. In 1989 ownership of the camp passed to the Ministry of Education, and it is now administered by the Camp Kaitawa Trust which at 2005 included Club members  John Aikman, Brian Neilson, Clive Adams, David Drake.


The Camp is now sought after for use by other community groups in non-school times. The rental from this helps keep the costs down for schools. The camp depends for its survival on the ongoing support of the Rotary Club of Taradale and the many members who so readily donate their time and skills.

Early History

  • Ron Ward Reminisces (Founder of the Camp)

Originally known as the Kaitawa Hydro School, Ronís first experience with it was as a teacher where he taught with his wife Estelle for four years. In the early 1960ís, the school was abandoned, and at this stage, 1965, Colin Walker, a science advisor with the Hawkes' Bay Education Board, approached Ron with the idea the buildings be used for Outdoor Education, a concept he had seen working effectively at Port Waikato. At this time Ron was living and teaching in Wairoa and had been a member of the Wairoa Rotary Club for two years. Ron was very enthusiastic and on taking up a position in the Inspectorate, he used his position to determine the status of the buildings. Phil Page, the Board Manager informed him the buildings were no longer required for schooling and would shortly revert back to the Ministry of Works who owned them. 

Photos in this this section were provided by Peter Sugden, 1978.

Greg Gear works on the water heater

The MOW thought the buildings had been destroyed, but Ron informed them that was not so, and that he had plans for them. They agreed with Ronís proposal and said they would gift the buildings back to the MOE. Ron then took the full proposal to the Ministry of Education who agreed with the concept but said they could not fund it.

With Colin Walker, Ron set up the first Camp Kaitawa committee which included Bill Priest, Bill Coutts, Bert Rattray and Henry Bell.

Shirley Gear (right) watches over Stella Stafford (left) and Estelle Ward


Ron's bush walks were very popular, particularly with wives and children.

In 1967 this group went up on the first working party and converted the two classrooms into dormitories. They designed and built bunks which are still in use 40 years later. The staff room and corridor was converted into a kitchen. To furnish these, Ron, in his official capacity as an Inspector, had the task of closing down a manual training centre in Gisborne. He organised tables, chairs, benches cupboards etc to be stored at Kaitawa, where they eventually found their way into the new camp buildings.

Recreation, particularly fishing, became a focal point of the working weeks.

The storage garage takes shape

To expand accommodation, 5 huts were acquired off Carter Holts for £100. Pettigrews agreed to transport them back from Tarawera, and the committee plus additional teachers, worked at painting and reassembling them at the Camp. Two were named after members of the original committee.

Ron Ebbett and Peter Sugden looking please with a mornings work

In late 1967, the first class was held. A group from Napier Intermediate, led by teacher John Davidson, gave the camp a trial run, and following that the demand for the Camp was so great, it was occupied right through the year. Colin Walker managed the Camp, and he arranged for a wife of a hydro worker to be camp custodian. With the support of Past-President, Dr. Mike Davies, Ron drummed up financial support with a number of Rotary Clubs making donations.


The active involvement of the Taradale Rotary Club started at this time, and the first of the annual working holidays started in 1968, which Arthur Stafford organised.

Greg Gear and Mac MacClmont on a walk

The demand for Outdoor Education was such that Ron and his team initiated the setting up of two more camps at Tutira and Wakarara (built by the Waipawa Rotary Club). Each camp has to date catered for upwards of 60,000 youths and all are still operating.
  • The first mention of Camp Kaitawa as far as the Club was concerned, appears to be an entry from the Bulletin of May 1967.

    "We heard a very interesting talk by Ron Ward, one of our own members, who described to us a "New Idea in Education". This is outdoor education for school children. Thirty five miles north of Wairoa, near Waikaremoana, is Camp Kaitawa. This consists of a derelict, but sound, school, surrounded by native bush on the one side, and open scrub country with a nearby lake. The ideal headquarters for a group of about 40 children to spend a week or so of their schooling in the outdoors. What an opportunity to learn bush-craft, camping outdoor survival, and just to appreciate our lands natural beauty, rather than to destroy it. An education committee has been set up and working bees have been busy already. Finance is needed, also tents, blankets, pillows etc. This camp will be open to all schools in Hawke's Bay during the Summer terms. The vote of thanks was proposed by Jock Morris, who voiced our opinion that this is a most worthwhile scheme."

    On the 9th November, 1967, the Bulletin reported that Ron Ward reported that "its off the ground. Wairoa Club (Ron's previous Rotary Club) is pouring ablution block foundations this week-end. All Clubs are being asked to express their interest."


  • In April 1968, Jack Lockyer reported to Directors that his committee supported continuation of the project, this being evidence of growing support within the Club. By September 1968, the Club appears to have embraced the concept as a project worthy of support because the Directors minutes record their support for the Vocational committee to supply the ablution block for the Camp. $25 was received from Napier Rotary to support the project. This project was eventually successfully completed with labour input from members plus financial contributions from other clubs. This was the start of the annual working parties to the camp over the Christmas holidays.