Media Release is as follows:
War Memorial recognised for outstanding significance
A Taranaki war memorial forged in colonial attitudes and battered by political activism has been recognised for its outstanding significance by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT).
The New Zealand Wars Memorial on New Plymouth’s Marsland Hill/Pukaka has been confirmed as a Category 1 Historic Place by the NZHPT, recognition of its significant heritage value to New Zealand as a monument to events that continue to shape the nation.
“Today the New Zealand Wars Memorial can be seen as a stark reminder of the events that shaped New Zealand, and as a symbol of their ongoing historical, cultural and social legacy,” says NZHPT Heritage Adviser Blyss Wagstaff.
Erected in 1909 as a monument dedicated to the ‘Colonial Forces’ and ‘Loyal Maoris’ (referring to Maori who fought on the side of the Crown) who died during the New Zealand Wars, the NZHPT says the memorial’s significance is enhanced further by its location in Taranaki, where the prolonged hostilities of 1860-1872 began, and lasted the longest.
“In more recent years the Memorial has been the target of protest actions for Maori rights, with one protest in the 1990s destroying the statue of a colonial soldier that had been on top. The empty pedestal is now a visible reminder of the need for a more balanced perspective to the story of early New Zealand,” says Ms Wagstaff.
The Memorial’s location on Marsland Hill/Pukaka, on a former pa that was the site of the regimental barracks and a refuge for the townspeople, gives it direct relevance to its subject matter.
“Notable for its instigation by a committee of veterans of the battles, it is also a rare and early example of a monument with a national scope, rather than local or regional relevance,” says Ms Wagstaff.
Following a public subscription drive the monument was unveiled with great ceremony, including a parade of troops, by then New Zealand Governor, Lord Plunket, on 7 May 1909.
Designed by prominent Taranaki architect Frank Messenger, it featured a statue of a trooper on top of a classically-ornamented plinth of sculpted marble and stone.
“Few monuments to the New Zealand Wars were constructed in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities as the idea of a memorial to commemorate the ordinary soldier was a relatively new concept at the time. But as veterans got older, there was more urgency to pay tribute,” Ms Wagstaff says.
Added was a growing interest in the history of New Zealand’s pioneers and an emerging national and imperial identity, in part fuelled by the recent (1899-1902) South African (Boer) War.
Ms Wagstaff says the site continues to be a focus for the strong emotions evoked by the conflicts and their aftermath.
During the 1990s two incidents of Maori political activism on separate Waitangi Days seriously affected the structure and signify its significance as a site representative of the serious and ongoing consequences of the conflicts.
The monument is publicly-owned and is listed as a Category A heritage item in the District Plan, showing further evidence of its value to the community.
“The colonial attitudes it enshrines, and the resultant Maori activism towards the monument, have great potential to encourage discussion and debate about Maori grievances and race relations in New Zealand society”.
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Back Ground Notes:
Registering historic places:
Registration is the inclusion on the NZHPT Register of a place or area that is considered part of New Zealand’s historical and cultural heritage. Places may be included on the Register if they possess aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historic, scientific, social, spiritual, technological or traditional values. Under the Historic Places Act (1993), places registered may be accorded a ranking of Category 1 or 2 status. The NZHPT also registers wahi tapu and wahi tapu areas.
Registration does not provide any direct protection to historic places or wahi tapu. Protection comes about when local authorities decide to protect their local historic places by scheduling them in their district plans under the Resource Management Act 1991. About 90 percent of places on the Register are also scheduled in District Plans.
More than 5,600 sites are included on the Register which can be searched online at historic.org.nz/TheRegister.aspx.