Te Arawa soldiers memorial to be restored

8:50 pm on 15 February 2016

The Te Arawa Soldiers' Memorial in the Rotorua Government Gardens is to get a makeover.

The Te Arawa Soldiers' memorial.

The Te Arawa Soldiers' memorial. Photo: Rotorua Lakes Council

Funding for the restoration project has come from the district's World War I commemorations committee.

The memorial was unveiled on 28 February 1927 by HRH The Duke of York (later King George VI) during a royal visit to New Zealand.

It was erected to commemorate Te Arawa men who fought and died in WWI, the memorial portrays key events in the history of Te Arawa and the interactions of Te Arawa and Pakeha.

It also features the names of 35 Te Arawa men, however over the years its condition has deteriorated and elements of the structure have been vandalised.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, who chairs the Rotorua District WW100 Commemorations Committee, said it would be fantastic to see the memorial restored.

"We're very pleased we've been able to attract funding for this project - to restore and preserve an important piece of Rotorua war history which this memorial marks.

"The memorial is one of only a few erected by Māori to commemorate their men who fought and died in World War I. Its restoration will be a fitting way to commemorate our city's contribution to World War I."

In a statement from the Rotorua Lakes Council they said reinstating significant elements of the memorial is seen as a way to restore the mana attached to the memorial and to those it commemorates.

They said it would also enable future generations and Te Arawa to appreciate a unique piece of the Rotorua district's history.

The Lotteries World War One Commemorations, Environment and Heritage Fund has confirmed $275,229 which will enable the project to go ahead.

Other organisations supporting the project include Rotorua Trust (RECT) which is donating $25,000, NZCT (NZ Community Trust) which is donating $30,000 and New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute which will make bronze work on the project.

Mayor Steve Chadwick said the memorial has had an interesting history since being erected in the late 1920s.

"Our committee is delighted with not only the contribution from the lotteries fund but also the funding and input from other organisations, including from Rotorua's New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute which will bring its expertise and enthusiasm to the project."

The committee has consulted with Te Arawa, through various organisations, and received unanimous support for the undertaking.

Young Māori and where possible, Te Arawa carvers, will be given the opportunity to work on the project - seen as an opportunity to increase their understanding of their whakapapa and traditional carving skills.

The project will involve the repair and conservation of the stonework on the memorial; replication of the stone statue of Rangitihi which was badly damaged and removed from the memorial in 1936; replication in bronze of eight original tekoteko and four pou that originally surrounded the memorial; and research and development of new interpretive panels.

Iwi will be consulted to determine the manner in which the statue of Rangitihi is to be replicated.