Location: 29 Health Camp Road, Ōtaki Beach
The New Zealand health camp movement arose from growing concern about children’s health and welfare in the early twentieth century. There was a new awareness that many children were missing out on fresh air, sunshine and healthy food. This was the first permanent Children’s Health Camp, opening in 1932.
Dr Elizabeth Gunn, School Medical Officer at Wanganui, became interested in camps for children after serving with the army (1916–18). She organised a successful health camp under canvas every summer for several years at Turakina.
Dr Ida Paterson, Director of School Hygiene, founded the Wellington Children’s Health Camp Association.
Byron Brown, businessman and entrepreneur of Ōtaki, donated four acres of land (later enlarged to 70 acres) near the beach.
Mrs Christen Neilson of Norsewood suggested the issuing of health stamps to support the camps. They have been sold every year since 1929, and some have become very valuable.
Two octagonal buildings from Rotorua Hospital were moved to the Ōtaki site. Each held 60 beds. Children selected by school medical staff came from Wellington, New Plymouth and Hawke’s Bay. Many were ill-nourished, the result of being in families experiencing high unemployment, or were recovering from illness. They stayed six weeks, and thrived on a regime of good food, plenty of sleep, fun at the seaside and a few hours of schooling daily.
The camp was taken over as a wartime emergency hospital by Wellington Hospital Board.
The camp re-opened with a new emphasis on emotional needs as well as physical health. Today a holistic approach addresses the social, emotional and physical needs of children.
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