Two camps were established in Hataitai during World War 2 and each was sometimes referred to as 'Hataitai Camp'.
The whole of Hataitai Park on the Town Belt was taken over by the army in February 1942 and the 1st Wellington Regiment built a camp on the area that today is the rugby fields and tennis courts. This camp was demolished in 1944.
Public works camp
Then: Lands and Survey photo of camp and Town Belt, probably 1940s. Detail of photo held at Wellington City Archives.
Now: The camp was on this grassed area of the Town Belt. The Badminton Hall is at centre right and Ruahine Street runs across the picture down to Wellington Road. Photo from Google Earth.
In 1943 the military authorities agreed to hand over a portion of the park to the Public Works Department for a camp to house 250 defence construction workers. These civilian men were employed building defence works, repairing damage from the large earthquake of June 1942 and building new houses. They were stationed at four temporary and unsatisfactory camps around Wellington, and the idea was to clear those inadequate camps and relocate the men to Hataitai Park. The Public Works Department 'forgot' to inform the City Council of its plans, and there was much discussion at the Council about the scope of the project and the destruction of several acres of trees. Construction of the camp went ahead. It consisted of about 125 two-man huts 10 feet by 8 feet wide, a mess hall, recreation hall and ablution blocks. The Evening Post suggested that the camp could become a "fine city asset" that could be used after the war as a motor camp or children's camp. However the Council decided that the camp would have to be removed within six months of the end of the war.
In March 1946 around 150-200 men engaged in essential work were still living at the camp. The Town Clerk agreed to extend permission for occupation for another nine months, but perhaps through oversight no formal agreement was signed. In May 1946 the National Employment Service (later Department of Labour) took over the camp. In April 1952 the camp was used to house waterside workers recruited from country districts as well as other single working men. Later on new immigrants lived there too. Over the course of its life, the camp was referred to as the Artisans' Camp, Workingmen's Camp or Industrial Workers' Camp.
Detail of a photo showing the Hataitai Workingmen's Camp. Photo from Evening Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, ref EP/1955/1491-F . View the whole photograph in high resolution at National Library's website.
By the mid 1950s the buildings had deteriorated. A newspaper article reported on the poor conditions, lack of heating and untidy and unsafe surroundings. Some repairs were made, but fewer men were using the camp so in 1959 28 huts were removed. By this time the City Council had surveyed a new road which would pass from the Basin Reserve over the hill to Wellington Road. If constructed the road would cut right through the camp so the Department of Labour had to consider whether it was worthwhile maintaining the camp.
By May 1964 there were only about 75 residents at the camp. Twenty-five of the men had lived there for five years or more, treating it as a permanent home rather than temporary accommodation. The Department of Labour decided to close the camp, but in a letter to the Ministry of Works noted that it had no legal agreement with the Council and had never paid rent. The camp closed at the end of 1964 and the various buildings were demolished or sold.
Sources:Evening Post various datesArchives New Zealand files AANK 947 W3580 399 33/1/8, AAQB w3950 546 24/4643, AATE W3388 33 94/3/10/50 part 1, ACIP 8725 AD-W1 2 C16