January 29th 2016 and the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the assembly line at the factory in Solihull UK. At the end of that same day around 50 New Zealand Land Rover owners gathered at the NZ Army’s training base for the weekend to commiserate and celebrate the end of the Land Rover Defender as we know it.
The weekend was the brainchild of Bruce Gibson and Ray Wong, members of the Land Rover Owners Club Auckland and the idea of a simple outing grew into a full on weekend for Land Rover owners from around the country.
To obtain the necessary access to the Waiouru training grounds the Off Limits Charitable Trust came to the party with the logistics and planning which even included accommodation in the army barracks and all meals in the army mess. Proceeds from the funds raised by the Trust would go to the welfare of soldiers and their families. Those who didn’t take up the accommodation and meal options camped out the back of the barracks.
The range of vehicles attending were Series 1s from 1955 upwards to the latest Defender and even a Discovery 3 and second-generation Range Rover. There were a number of later Series 2 & 3 Land Rovers as well as several earlier Discoverys to give the Land Rover brand a good cross mix of vehicles from its 66 years of production.
The Army training grounds at Waiouru cover something like 63,000 hectares and run for approximately 35kms alongside State Highway 1 (aka the Desert Road). The grounds extend 30kms east to the head waters of the Rangitikei River and to the slopes of Mt Ruapehu to the west and include the Moawhango Dam (part of the Tongariro Power Development Scheme). The area is an ideal military training ground and has been used as such since 1932.