Class: RNZAF Satellite Station
Administered by: Royal New Zealand Air Force
Closest Major Town or City: Dargaville, Northland
History under RNZAF usage: Despite this aerodrome being little known about, dues to its remoteness, secrecy and lack of operational usage during the war, we are very fortunate that historian Alan Britton, who lives in the Te Kopuru area, has kindly supplied a lot of information about the RNZAF Station at Te Kopuru.
Apparently the idea of an airfield in the district of Te Kopuru was fist floated in 1935 when this message was sent from the Public Works Department engineer to Mr C. Franson.
Eng I/C to C Franson, Te Kopuru.
Herewith enclosed please find a
pamphlet giving particulars of the area required for an aerodrome. I should
say that a Class 'D' ground would be satisfactory for Te Kopuru.
Alan says the area with which the engineers then were looking at for an airfield, north of Te Kopuru Village according to the accompanying map, is not the same site as where the airstrip was later in 1942 established for RNZAF use. Alan has also supplied the following wartime correspondence relating to the airfield, which makes very interesting reading. The notes in brackets are by Alan Britton I believe)
Eng I/C to AirlSec.
Suggested Aerodrome Ruawai.
The site was
inspected at Ruawai but was a low lying mud-flat area. The land is below the
high spring tide level and in normal wet weather there is about 6'1 of
freeboard and from the military point of view damage to the automatic
drainage gates would flood large tracts of country and this site is not
considered suitable. Other sites were inspected and the only promising one
was on the western side of the Wairoa River about one mile south of Te
At this point the soils are of an entirely different character to others in
the District and are suitable for a turf aerodrome. Surface conditions are
almost satisfactory in the natural state, time did not permit a thorough
investigation but if desired a preliminary report can be submitted for this
(There is a map following this letter which shows the area around the
site selected on the west bank of the river ghb). PWD 23/381/73, Part 1
Eng I/C to CAS.
Suggested Aerodrome Ruawai.
It was inspected by
Mr Langbein, Highways Engineer accompanied by Lt Commander H H Houk of US
Forces. They inspected various sites on the ?? and also on the Te Kopuru side.
The major difficulties with the Ruawai side were the extreme levelness of
all suitable land, low margins between high water, spring tide level and
surface level of all sites, unstable soil and liability of fog. The site on
the Te Kopuru side would require investigation as to level and possibility
of satisfactory layout before it would be possible to compare it with other
If a decision is made to construct an aerodrome in the locality it would be
necessary to build up the runways with stable material, which is apparently
available within reasonable range, to a depth of from 12" to 18".
The construction of an aerodrome in the locality is a summertime job and
should, on no account, be attempted under winter conditions.
PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
Eng I/C to Air/Sec.
Enclosed preliminary report on proposed
aerodrome site on Te Kopuru Flats.
You will see a full strip development is possible up to 7000' in length and
from an analysis of the penetration test carried out on the Ruawai and Te
Kopuru Flats it is obvious that the Te Kopuru preferable.
Construction will take about four months to complete two stabilised strips.
Work would commence about the beginning of November, the estimated costs,
including purchase of land, laying of strips and clearing of obstructions is £45,000.
The property is Tokatoka SD, Part DP 25146, Block 5, Part Section 15,
16, 17, 19 & 20 and is .situated between the west bank of the Northern
Wairoa River and the Dargaville - Tikinui Highway on flats, one mile south
of Te Kopuru. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
A H Neville to Min of Defence. As you are aware a new aerodrome
is under construction at Kaitaia which it is proposed to use as a fighter
station for the defence of the vital area of the Bay of Islands. An
extension has been made to the landing ground at Waipapakauri to enable this
aerodrome to be used by modern types of aircraft.
Owing to the nature of the soil in winter conditions there is little chance
that these aerodromes will be available for use before the end of next
The North Auckland Province is not generally suitable for the construction
of aerodromes. Other than Kaitaia and Waipapakauri, which are under
construction, there are no aerodromes suitable for the operation of modern
service types until Whenuapai is reached which is 150 miles further south.
The two small aerodromes at Kerikeri and Whangarei are incapable of
extension and cannot be used for modern service types.
The lack of any suitable aerodrome south of the Bay of Islands Fortress Area
constitutes a serious disability to the general defence schemes in the North
Auckland Province. Moreover the lack of any aerodrome north of Auckland for
Hudsons involves greatly increased flying hours for reconnaissance aircraft
which could otherwise be avoided.
Surveys have been carried out for some time with the object of finding a
suitable site in the Dargaville area and the sites at Ruawai and Te Kopuru
have both received detailed examination.
The latter site, one mile south of Te Kopuru, is in all respects suitable
for the development of a modern aerodrome and could be brought into use at a
relatively small expense within six weeks or two months for use by Hudsons
and similar types during summer conditions.
While this landing ground fills a vital gap in the distribution of
operational aerodromes in the North Auckland Province it is not proposed to
develop an Air Force Station on this site until the necessity becomes more
apparent and the number of aircraft available justify such action.
It is proposed however in the meantime, to use this aerodrome as an advanced
landing ground for reconnaissance aircraft of the Hudson type which will
involve a limited amount of stabilisation of the runways and a minimum of
It is proposed that the area required should be leased from the farmers,
rather than purchased, and the ground taken over by the Air Force is limited
to the minimum required for runways.
One important advantage of this proposal is the provision of a suitable
aerodrome in the North Auckland Province from which modern types could
operate this summer pending the construction of the more advanced aerodromes
at Kaitaia and Waipapakauri.
The cost of preparing the landing ground, exclusive of the cost of leasing
the land, is estimated at £7,000. It was recommended that he obtain approval
from War Cabinet. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
DCAS to Eng I/C.
Contents of this letter follow the same general
lines as the one of the same date from Neville to Min of Defence Re the
development of suitable runways satisfactory for the operation of Hudsons or
similar types, he goes on little earth works involved do not appear to be
heavy and it is possible the project could be most suitably be carried out
by No 1 Aerodrome Construction Unit. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
AMS to DC NG. Te Kopuru.
The policy to be followed in connection
with the provision of a landing ground at Te Kopuru has been given further
consideration by Air Staff and a ruling has been given as follows: "The
construction of a temporary strip landing ground as recommended by the AOCNG
is approved. It was decided that work should be commenced as soon as
possible, preferably by No 1 Aerodrome Construction Unit.
The question of making a permanent aerodrome at Te Kopuru, or at any other
site in this vicinity, should not be considered until Kaitaia is finished."
Would you please arrange for the Area Engineer to take the necessary action
to provide this temporary landing strip, to your requirements, as soon as
possible. (In this file is Drawing WR 5494, Te Kopuru Aerodrome). PWD
23/381/73, Part 1.
AOCNG to OC No 1 Construction Unit, Rukuhia.
received from Air HQ that your Unit is to proceed with the construction of a
temporary field, as per our Scheme No 2 Te Kopuru.
This HQ is of the opinion that this work is of no value unless completed by
the end of November and it is hoped that you will be able to allocate a
Section to proceed forthwith with the work of clearing and culverting.
The following arrangements have been made;
1. Air HQ asked to instruct the Eng I/C re taking of land.
2. DIE asked to provide 12 PWD tents.
3. D/E asked to provide temporary cook-house facilities.
4. One 36'xl0' tropical type hut has been forwarded by rail for use as a
dining room/recreation room. Trucks will be obtainable on hire should
service vehicles not be available. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
DOW (Air) to Eng l/C. Advised that the Min of Defence had
approved work in connection with the Te Kopuru aerodrome and for him to
proceed. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
Copy, AOCNG to Air HQ. Enclosed plans showing proposed runways
and drainage. Action taken so far;
1. Survey made by Construction Sqdn estimates submitted.
2. PWD instructed by you on 30 Sept to arrange lease of land.
3. PWD asked to provide camp of 12 PWD tents and temporary cook-house.
4. Official authority received on 16 October.
5. Plans showing runways submitted to District Engineer CD/E).
6. A slightly revised layout of runway system prepared in this HQ
in order to reduce the drainage problems.
Arrangements have been made for No 1 Construction Unit to send a Section to
Te Kopuru but before this can take effect it is necessary to confirm what
arrangements the DIE has been able to make towards camp" accommodation,
whether a drag-line shovel can be allocated from the District and to arrange
for the supply of six Air Force trucks to No 1 Construction Sqdn. This last
has not been pressing pending completion of arrangements for Waipapakauri
but should you be in a position to allocate a further six trucks to No 1
Const Unit, these should be sent to Dargaville. PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
AOCNG to Air HQ. Relates in the main to laying of drains etc and
the costs. There was also some problem in obtaining the dragline. PWD
23/381/71, Part 1.
Asst Und/Sec to J G Coates, Wgton. Regarding Te Kopuru, he has
ascertained what the definite proposals of the Air Force are.
The Air Force No 1 Const Unit will construct two runways, put them in
pasture grass then restore the fences to their original positions. The Air
Force will then have the runways available should their use be required in"an emergency.
In the meantime the farms concerned will not be disturbed apart from the
disturbance consequent upon the grading of the runways. The Air Force hopes
to have the whole of the work done and be out of the place by the end of
January. (1943). PWD 23/381/73, Part 1.
D/E to Perm Head. Advising that the flying field at Te Kopuru is
available for use as regards to the conditions of surface etc. The original
boundary fences across the runways have been replaced with electric fences
as these can be easily removed if the field is to be used. Enclosed were two
copies of the plan for Air Pilot information as received in Wellington on 31
May 1943. Information in the letter placed the field on the eastern side of
the Dargaville-Tikinui main road, approx 1.5 miles south/east of Te Kopuru
Village and between the main road and the Wairoa River. The airfield being
4' above sea level. East of the airfield and on the opposite bank of the
river if the settlement of Tokatoka. (The enclosed plan is too large to go
an one sheet of A4 but could go on perhaps two or be reduced to A4 ghb **).
The airfield is under the control of the PWD. Surface Conditions, Good grass
surface, reasonable hard with usual obstructions, Phone Lines, electric
fences crossing runways.
Refueling, available from Whangarei.
Repair and hangar facilities, Nil.
Transport, Daily services from Te Kopuru to Dargaville.
Accommodation, Aratapu Hotel - 3.25 miles.
Weather Conditions, Available from the North Auckland Times Office,
Dargaville. PWD 23/381/121.
Inspection Report By F E T Suckling DSIR.
Te Kopuru was
inspected and the work required to be done;
The general condition of the turf, grass has established fairly well on the
runways and is spreading well to fill up the gaps. Paspallum is recovering
quickly, stock grazing on the area are causing damage by pugging and making
Work required to be done; Grass has made a good strike over most of the
field and is still making some growth. Large areas are water logged and may
cause some new grass to die off. Heavy grazing has been the practice of the
farmers on the runways and this is causing poaching and other damage before
grass is properly established. Tracks across the runways are common showing
that the farmers are not making their stock use the metal races provided.
There appears to be no definite policy regarding this field. It was our
recommendation that no grazing should be done until that grass had properly
established. This recommendation was obviously not adhered to. PWD
23/381/73, Part 1.
Air Pilot Information.
There is a tracing for the Air Pilot at
the end of the file, which I will get photocopied (25/6/90).
The Te Kopuru Aerodrome Information is as follows :
Latitude: 0 Longitude: 0
Magnetic Variation: 15 deg East approx.
Telephone: Post Office, Te Kopuru, 1.25 miles from aerodrome. Telephone in
Private House 0.5 Mile, Mr C. Moore, Phone 26D Te Kopuru. Controlling
(A) Dimensions N/W - S/E, 1738 yards. S/W - N/E, 1628 yards.
(B) Altitude above Mean Sea Level. 4 ft approximately.
(C) Surface Conditions. Good grass surface, reasonably hard.
(D) Obstructions requiring special precaution. Light electric fences, metal
crossings. Telephone line along main road.
(E) Special Signals. None.
This was apparently built by the Public Works Department for the RNZAF during the war, as an emergency fighter airstrip. RNZAF Station Te Kopuru was apparently on the opposite side of the Northern Wairoa River (an arm of the Kaipara Harbour) from the current Dargaville Airport. The latter was constructed postwar. Te Kopuru is south west of the town of Dargaville, towards Poutu, the North Kaipara head.
The land is mainly sandy, with the dunes backing towards Baileys Beach. The flat area around Te Kopuru was drained quite early in the area's history and made a suitable emergency landing area.
Opened as RNZAF Station: 27th of May 1943
Closed as RNZAF Station: unknown
Wartime Units Permanently Stationed Here: unknown
Thanks to Sean Strang and Bruce Cooke for their assistance on this information
Link To Another Site: http://www.te-kopuru.co.nz/The_RNZAF_Airfield.cfm