View Full Version : CHRISTCHIRCH - Wigram

27-02-2009, 12:42
Former RNZAF Wigram base closes for housing redevelopment

New Zealands' Hendon equivalent, former RNZAF Wigram, and home to the RNZAF Air Force Museum is closing its airfield and to be redeveloped for housing, ending its operation as New Zealands oldest permanent airfield.

I have cut and pasted a post from the Plane Talk Forum by Dave Homewood a NZ Enthusiast who runs his own forum.


Mark Pilkington


Dave Homewood

Joined: 19 Oct 2005
Posts: 2150
Location: Cambridge, New Zealand
Posted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:34 am Post subject: The last day at Wigram tomorrow


Tomorrow will be the last day of flying ever at the historic New Zealand airfield of Wigram.

This is the most important historical site in New Zealand aviation. It was New Zealand's first ever dedicated airfield, estabilshed in 1916 by Sir Henry Wigram, a politician, who could not convince the Government that aviation was the future so he did it himself from his own money. He created the Canterbury Flying School, where around 150 New Zealanders were trained to fly for the RFC, RNAS and RAF in WWI.

In 1923 the Government finally decided to take on funding military flying and the land, aircraft and facilities were bought from Wigram. Till this time the airfield was known as Sockburn but now it was renmaed Wigram as a fitting tribute. Wigram himself donated money and land to the cause and bought some figters for the new NZPAF.

In 1928 more history was made when the first aircraft to ever cross the Tasman Sea, and the first ever international flight to New Zealand arrived there, in the form of the Southern Cross.

By 1934 the NZPAF was renamed the RNZAF, and in 1937 that became a seperate service form the Army. In WWII thousands of men and women passed through Wigram's gates. It was the main flying training school for the RNZAF, supplying many pilots and aircrew for the RAF and RN FAA, etc. as well as our home and Pacific squadrons.

The decision to close flying training at Wigram came in 1991 but did not occur till 1993. Ground training continued there till 1995. Then RNZAF Base Wigram was closed, leaving just a recruiting office and the famous RNZAF Museum (now renamed the Air Force Museum of New Zealand) there.

The airfield was handed by the Government to the Christchurch City Council in the hope it would become a popular regional airport for smaller aircraft and warbirds, etc. This did happen but the council decided they no longer wanted the burden so sold it at a dirt cheap rate to the local Maori tribe who had made major claims under the Treaty of Waitangi for reparation of grievances from things that happened in the Maori Wars and settlement days. So they took over and in the deal the airport remained active for 10 years. When that contract was up the were expected to last year tick an option that kept the airfield open another 50 years. However in the time they have owned it they have destroyed most of the buildings from the historic base, and built tiny houses on tiny sections and sold them at great profit. The dollar signs rolling in their eyes, as they always do for heads of tribes, they decided instead to close the airfield and the entire airfield is to be built over with housing.

A couple of weekends ago the last RNZAF museum airshow was held there which got a great reaction from the public and saw some spectacular flying by all accounts.

Tomorrow is the last day of flying, and the last tennated aircraft are flying out. Shortly afterwards some of the great old hangars will be demolished.

This has to be the darkest day in New Zealand aviation - if discounting fatal crashes of course. As one of the many tens of thousands of Air Force personnel who called that place home during it's 90 + years of existence I still cannot fathom how in today's society that a group who got ownership of the land through a deal that was all about the reparation for destruction of history and culture can then do the exact same thing to another set of history and culture without hesitation. It's a sad, sad business.
Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum http://rnzaf.proboards43.com

Wings Over Cambridge Website

27-02-2009, 14:21
Sad to see things are not a lot different in New Zealand. I know we cant save everything, but at least attempt to save the bits that actually count.
Ho hum :x

27-02-2009, 19:08
Well when you consider that New Zealand has no threat in the area then its armed forces are going to be relatively small. And therefore it will not need many airfields, the Republic of Ireland only has one military airfield.

Richard Flagg
26-01-2012, 19:43
A photo of Wigram Airfield, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2 September 2008 taken from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigram_Aerodrome). Photo by Phillip Capper