New Zealand Wars Memorial

51 Robe Street, Marsland Hill / Pukaka, New Plymouth

  • New Zealand Wars Memorial (middle distance) amongst other memorials on the hilltop of Marshland Hill .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: B Wagstaff. Date: 5/07/2010.
  • New Zealand Wars Memorial.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: B Wagstaff. Date: 5/07/2010.
  • New Zealand Wars Memorial. Inscription east face.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: B Wagstaff. Date: 5/07/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 904 Date Entered 27th June 2013


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 2341 Tn of New Plymouth (NZ Gazette 1907, p. 2758), Taranaki Land District and the structure known as New Zealand Wars Memorial thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

New Plymouth District


Taranaki Region

Legal description

Sec 2341 Tn of New Plymouth (NZ Gazette 1907, p. 2758), Taranaki Land District

Location description

GPS Location information: (At base on north face of structure) E 1692881; N 5675895, +/- 5m


The New Zealand Wars Memorial, erected in 1909 on New Plymouth’s Marsland Hill/Pukaka, is a monument dedicated ‘to the honoured memory of the officers and men of H.M. Naval, Military and Colonial Forces and Loyal Maoris [sic] who fell in action or died during the Maori Wars 1845-47:1860-70.’ The memorial is of significant historic, commemorative and social heritage value to New Zealand as a monument to events that continue to shape the nation. It is of outstanding significance for its potential for education about Maori-European relations and the formation of New Zealand’s culture and society.

The European colonisation of New Zealand had a major impact on the landscape and the existing Maori population. Tensions created by land purchase, and the imposition of the European system of individual title over the Maori custom of communal ownership, compounded the misunderstandings and cultural conflict that had simmered since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. In Taranaki these tensions first erupted into bloodshed in 1854, prompting the stationing of British troops in a stockade on Marsland Hill, the former pa site Pukaka, in 1855. 1860-1881 saw numerous clashes in the province, which echoed similar hostilities around the North Island. This period of history is now most commonly known as the New Zealand Wars, which were waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori efforts to retain their land. It caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863, with ongoing consequences.

As the battles became less frequent the military presence in New Plymouth diminished, and the Marsland Hill barracks were removed in 1891. Changing attitudes towards memorialisation, as well as the encroaching old age of the New Zealand Wars veterans, soon led to moves to install a war memorial on the site of the former barracks. Captain F.J. Mace was the prime mover for the project, and following a public subscription drive the monument was unveiled with great ceremony by the Governor General, Lord Plunket, in May 1909.

Designed by prominent Taranaki architect Frank Messenger, it featured a statue of a trooper atop a classically-ornamented plinth of sculpted marble and stone, made by mason W. Parkinson. In more recent years the New Zealand Wars Memorial has been the target of protest actions for Maori rights. Politically-angled attacks in the 1990s destroyed the statue, leaving the pedestal empty as a visible reminder of the need for a more balanced perspective to the story.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is of outstanding historical significance as a monument to events which were formative in the history of this country, and continue to be of fundamental importance to our society as history in the making. The wars waged between the Crown and Maori over the enforced alienation of Maori land to furnish the European colonisation had a devastating impact on Maori, and the resulting expropriation and ongoing consequences comprise a fundamental element of Maori grievance. The Marsland Hill monument is a direct link to these events, being located on the site of the former military stockade and featuring inscriptions indicative of the people and military forces involved in the conflicts. It is also of interest as a relatively early example of a memorial of national scope, and a monument instigated by veterans of the conflicts. Its location in Taranaki, the place where the prolonged hostilities of 1860-1872 began, enhances its historic value.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Monuments and memorials typically evoke strong feelings through their design and presence as well as their subject matter, and the New Zealand Wars Memorial is no different. Its location on Marsland Hill/Pukaka, a raised vantage point with expansive views over the city of New Plymouth, on the site of the military stockade and refuge point and in close proximity to the Boer War Memorial, Kibby Carillon, and other memorials and gravesites, places the monument within an atmosphere of history and reverence that is enhanced by the scale and gravitas of the structure.

Architectural Significance or Value

The New Zealand Wars Memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka is of architectural value as part of the oeuvre of prominent New Plymouth architect Frank (Francis John) Messenger. Messenger designed or contributed to the designs of around 315 buildings or structures in Taranaki, making a significant impact on the built landscape of the province.

Social Significance or Value

As a public monument the New Zealand Wars Memorial is of value to the community, and it is maintained and viewed as part of the community’s heritage. However, due to the nature of the events it commemorates, and the way in which the sentiment is expressed, the New Zealand Wars Memorial is of particular social significance and importance. It was built as part of a drive to create and consolidate a national identity. Today the monument can easily be viewed as a glorification of the colonial attitudes it embodies, however the vandalism and attention it has received as the focus of Maori activism is evidence of the need to provide a more balanced perspective to the story, now visible in the missing statue and the damage to the structure.

As such, this place can play an important role in the continual efforts to acknowledge the deprivation imposed on Maori by the European colonisation, and provide a forum for discussion and debate to further public understanding of these issues. The New Zealand Wars Memorial is of outstanding social significance.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The New Zealand Wars Memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka is a direct reflection of one of the most significant periods of New Zealand’s history and is therefore of outstanding historical value. The monument commemorates the settlers, colonial forces and Maori who fought with the Crown in the conflicts from early the colonial period until 1870. The resultant effects of these conflicts continue to form an important part of the fabric of this country’s history.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is directly associated with a number of significant figures in New Zealand history. The inscriptions on the monument provide evidence of its link to Governor General Lord Plunket, New Zealand Cross recipient Captain Frank Mace, and other Wars veterans involved in the Memorial Committee. The memorial is part of a nationwide movement to pay tribute to those who took part in the important events of the New Zealand Wars.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

The move to erect the New Zealand Wars Memorial was initiated by a committee of veterans, and the monument was funded by public subscription. It was also constructed at a time when the Government demonstrated its support for these memorials by offering a pound-for-pound subsidy. In more recent years, members of the community have expressed their sadness at the vandalism of the structure. 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.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is of outstanding value for its significant potential for public education about one of the most important periods of New Zealand history. 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. The public location, on a heritage trail and accompanied by some interpretation of the historic nature of the wider site, contribute to this value. The inscriptions on the monument have the potential to stimulate public interest in some of the notable historic figures associated with its construction, as does the detail of the information provided about the people, regiments and military forces involved in the warfare of the period.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The New Zealand Wars Memorial has significant symbolic and commemorative value as a monument to those who fought and fell in the New Zealand Wars. Although it can be read as a symbol of the colonial attitudes that led to oppression, in more recent years, as Maori land rights and the Waitangi Tribunal processes have gained more prominence (expressed here by the missing statue and visible damage), the memorial could also be read as a symbol of the ongoing efforts to redress and acknowledge the historical, cultural and social legacy of colonisation.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The memorial’s location on Marsland Hill gives it special significance. Its erection on the former site of the regimental barracks, in the heart of the military stockade which formed a refuge for the townspeople when under siege, gives it direct relevance to its subject matter. It is also located amidst a rich historic and archaeological landscape featuring many historic sites and monuments, dating from the hill’s time as Pukaka pa in the eighteenth century through to its current incarnation as a public place of remembrance and contemplation. In addition to its close proximity to the Boer War Memorial, Kibby Carrillon and Bernard Aris memorial seat, the New Zealand Wars Memorial is also adjacent to historic graves and the other New Zealand Wars-related features found at nearby St Mary’s Church.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category 1 historic place. The New Zealand Wars Memorial is of outstanding heritage significance for its historic and social values. The memorial represents a formative part of New Zealand’s history, with a direct link to its subject matter from the site on which it is located. Taranaki is a place of particular significance in the history of the New Zealand Wars, as the location in which the events of 1860-1881 began, and where the fighting continued the longest and Maori were seriously disenfranchised. The New Zealand Wars Memorial is symbolic of the troubled relationship between Maori and the Governments of New Zealand, with a direct link to those veterans and fallen who took part in the events. It is also located amidst a rich historical and archaeological landscape with many related features of historic and commemorative significance.

As the site of protest actions aiming for acknowledgement of the injustices imposed on Maori as a result of the events surrounding colonisation, the monument is of great importance for its ability to encourage debate and discussion. While the attitudes expressed in the New Zealand Wars Memorial can appear to enshrine, and therefore celebrate, cultural and social perspectives that differ from those that the present society is working to redress, this is one of the qualities in which its heritage value lies. Today the New Zealand Wars Memorial can be read as a symbol with continuing social and historical relevance.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Messenger, Francis (Frank) John

Francis John Messenger was a New Plymouth architect. He practised from the 1890s until his death in 1945 and was responsible for a number of prominent buildings in Taranaki which cover a variety of building types. His work includes the verandah (1909) of New Plymouth's White Hart Hotel (1886, Cat I), extensions to St Mary's Church (Cat I), Shoe Store Building, 58 Rata Street (1910, Cat II), Inglewood Town Hall by Percival & Messenger (1913, Cat II), St Andrew's Anglican Church, Rata Street by Messenger, Griffiths & Taylor (1922-23, Cat II), the Cenotaph opposite St Aubyn Chambers (1924, Cat II) and the Taranaki Savings Bank Building, 89 Devon Street by Messenger, Griffiths and Taylor (1929-30, Cat II).

William Parkinson & Co.

Sculptors and Monumental Masons based in Victoria Street, Auckland.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Taranaki region is thought to have been settled by Maori at least 700 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that pa were being built in the area, which surrounds Mount Taranaki, as early as the fifteenth century. A number of iwi hold mana whenua in the west coast of the region, including Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, Te Atiawa and Taranaki.

In the early eighteenth century, the area which would become New Plymouth was a frontier between the Taranaki and Te Atiawa tribes. Around 1720-1730 the Taranaki hapu Nga-potiki-taua built a fortified stronghold called Pukaka on a hill in a central location. Pukaka Pa was abandoned around 1760 when the area was taken by Te Atiawa, who affiliate with the waka Tokomaru and are said to descend from the semi-divine origins of ancestor Awanuiarangi, whose people moved south from Northland to the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.

European whalers initially arrived along the Taranaki coast in the first half of the nineteenth century, and generally integrated themselves relatively harmoniously with the local Maori communities. By the early 1840s a Te Atiawa pa of the Ngati Te Whiti hapu at Ngamotu, called Otaka Pa, was still populated but many other Maori strongholds in the region had been abandoned following attacks by taua from the Waikato a decade earlier, which had prompted a major migration of the remnant Te Atiawa population to Otaki, Wellington and Marlborough.

Organised colonial settlement at Taranaki was first instituted by the Plymouth Company in 1839-1840, who arranged to purchase land from the New Zealand Company for the settlement of immigrants from Devon and Cornwall, although this purchase would be much disputed in the future. The site of the township was chosen and laid out by Chief Surveyor Frederic Carrington in February 1841, and settler ships arrived from England from March 1841 onwards. By this time the Plymouth Company had fallen into financial difficulties, and was formally merged with the New Zealand Company in May 1841. Settler ships continued to arrive, but disputes around the Crown’s role in transferring land out of Maori ownership, and between tangata whenua over who had the authority to transfer land, were already evident, affecting all involved.

Nga Pakanga Whenua O Mua: wars fought over land

An enquiry by Commissioner William Spain (1803–1876) in 1844 upheld the initial European purchase of 60,000 acres, but this was re-investigated by Governor Robert FitzRoy (1804-1865) and reduced to 3,500 acres. Over the next 15 years large blocks of land were purchased by the Governor on either side of New Plymouth, but tensions (both inter-tribal and between Maori and Pakeha) continued to escalate, erupting into hostilities in 1854 with a skirmish between hapu at Bell Block, and the first Maori-European battle in Taranaki in 1860.

The series of prolonged conflicts during the 1860s and early 1870s are now most commonly known as the New Zealand Wars, waged between the Crown and Maori in response to Maori efforts to retain their land. Major military actions in Taranaki occurred around Waitara (notably at Mahoetahi and Sentry Hill), southwest of New Plymouth at Waireka and Tataramaika, and in South Taranaki at Otapawa, Turuturumokai and Te-Ngutu-o-te-Manu. Battles were waged over these same issues not only around Taranaki, but also in the regions of Waikato, Whanganui, Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast of the North Island, continuing from conflicts over land since the early colonial period.

These wars caused widespread deprivation, suffering and loss of life and land for iwi, resulting in the heavy confiscation of tribal land taken by the Crown under the Land Settlement Act of 1863, which stripped Maori not only of their homes and wahi tapu, but also their ability to provide for themselves and their iwi, earn a fair income in the new colonial society, and retain the right of self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) and cultural autonomy. The devastating effects of these actions have since been acknowledged by the Crown through formal apologies and efforts of redress by settlement negotiations under the ongoing Waitangi Tribunal process, which, due to complexity of the situation in Taranaki, is not yet resolved for that region. The Waitangi Tribunal’s Taranaki Report: Kaupapa Tuatahi states that as the region where the wars started first and continued the longest, compounded by continuing expropriation of land through legislative means, the Taranaki claims are the result of distinctive circumstances where ‘in no other part of New Zealand did a contest of that nature continue for so long or Maori suffer so much the deprivations of strife after British sovereignty was proclaimed.’

The conflicts in Taranaki also affected the fledgling European settler communities, with many residents of outlying areas abandoning their homes and taking refuge in the urban centre of New Plymouth town, or leaving the region altogether for a time. Complaints from anxious European settlers resulted in the Government stationing a garrison at New Plymouth, and the site of the former Pukaka pa (which had been renamed Marsland Hill by the colonists in 1841) was transformed into a military stockade and barracks for Imperial troops in 1855. The Marsland Hill stockade also acted as a place of refuge for the town’s residents when threatened by the conflicts. Local residents had also been formed into a militia since the Militia Act of 1858.

As the frequency of battles decreased the British troops were gradually withdrawn, until the last detachment left New Plymouth in 1870; however further military actions occurred in South Taranaki and in 1880-1881 following the peaceful Maori protests at Parihaka. The former barracks on Marsland Hill/Pukaka were next used to house new immigrants from Poland, Scandinavia and Britain from 1874-1880, before being dismantled and removed from the site in 1891. A portion of the barracks has survived in the form of the Camp House building (Register no. 7233, Category 1) on the slopes of Mt Taranaki.

Memorial to the conflicts

New Zealand inherited the tradition of war memorials as part of an international trend that spread from Europe. They provide a focal point for the grief of those who lost loved ones but may have no grave to mourn at, as well as a way to honour the collective and individual sacrifice of those involved in the horrors of war. However, few monuments to the New Zealand Wars were constructed in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities. Historians Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips propose that this was because the idea of a memorial to commemorate the ordinary soldier was a relatively new concept at the time, and also suggest that the Pakeha community harboured painful, often embarrassing memories of frustrating conflicts ‘with few clear-cut victories, and those were often the results of the efforts of imperial soldiers rather than locals’, that did not bear much celebration. Sensitivity to the fragility of peace may have also been a factor. However, as the years passed and the veterans of the battles neared the ends of their lives, the urge to pay tribute to those who fought began to grow.

Land on Marsland Hill/Pukaka had been gazetted by the Government in 1863 for a suitable memorial ‘to be erected in memory of certain officers and soldiers of Her Late Majesty’s Forces’, but no monument was constructed until the early years of the twentieth century, when this original reserved land was enlarged for the same purpose. The renewed impetus for the tribute was led by New Zealand Cross recipient Captain F.J. Mace, and other esteemed Taranaki veterans, however there were a great many members of the public who were more than keen to contribute, as well as Government subsidies now available.

Attitudes towards memorialisation had by this time changed. A renewed interest in the history of New Zealand’s pioneers (perhaps reflecting a desire to create roots and legitimise Pakeha presence, as well as celebrate that aging generation) dovetailed with a general Victorian/Edwardian enthusiasm for monument-building. Memorials to New Zealand’s fallen in the recent (1899-1902) South African (Boer) War were being completed just six months after the end of that war. Maclean and Phillips state that ‘the desire to teach the younger generation that men had died before them in the service of Empire was the main impulse behind the renewed building of memorials to the dead of the New Zealand Wars.’

The New Plymouth memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka is one of the earliest examples from this new wave of monuments of a memorial initiated by veterans themselves. The Marsland Hill Memorial Committee was formed in 1905 after a few years of advocacy by Captain Mace NZC, and public subscription was sought from the end of 1906. Subscribers included members of the local community, as well as a number of prominent public figures including the Governor General Lord William Plunket, Dr Frederic Truby King, and veteran Colonel Walter Gudgeon, who was by that time New Zealand’s Resident Commissioner in the Cook Islands. International contributions also came from veterans and other British regiments. The Government offered a pound-for-pound subsidy of up to £300.

Prominent local architect Frank Messenger won the design competition for the monument. During his career Messenger designed approximately 315 buildings and monuments around Taranaki, including New Plymouth’s Cenotaph (Register no. 885, Category 2), Devonport Flats (Register no. 890, Category 2), St Aubyn Chambers (Register no. 7451, Category 2) and the distinctive balconies around the White Hart Hotel (Register no. 149, Category 1); and St Andrew’s Church (Register no. 875, Category 2) and the Town Hall (Register no. 877, Category 2) in Inglewood.

Auckland masonry firm W. Parkinson & Co constructed the monument’s carved marble pedestal, and the plinth was of local andesite and New Zealand granite on a base of concrete. The pedestal was topped by a carved marble statue of a trooper in military uniform, modelled for by South African War veteran George Messenger (brother of Frank) and sculpted at the Carrara quarries in Italy. The total cost came to around £800. The inscription dedicated the memorial not only to those who fought in the Taranaki conflicts, but ‘to the honoured memory of the officers and men of H.M. Naval, Military and Colonial Forces and Loyal Maoris[sic] who fell in action or died during the Maori Wars 1845-47:1860-70’, giving it a national scope.

The memorial was unveiled with great ceremony, including a parade of troops, by the Governor General Lord Plunket on 7 May 1909. The Premier, Sir Joseph Ward, sent an apology of sincere regret that he could not attend. In his speech, S. Percy Smith, Chairman of the Committee, expressed his pride at the ‘uniqueness’ of the monument: ‘There was none in the Dominion so comprehensive. There were monuments erected to regiments and individuals, but this one commemorated the deeds of the naval and imperial military forces, the militia and the loyal Maoris.’ Lord Plunket’s words unwittingly convey the purely colonial perspective of the sentiment behind the memorial: ‘I am very glad as representative of the King to pay honour to the band of veterans present here to-day, who helped make and keep this portion of his Empire, and add my tribute to the memory of those who, throughout New Zealand died in the service of their Sovereign and their country…for whilst the greatest monument of those white men and loyal Natives who kept New Zealand for the Empire is that prosperous Dominion itself to-day, it is well that on this historic spot a fitting monument to their honour should keep their memories green.’

Soon after the unveiling, the decision was made to erect a permanent railing around the structure.

Site of protest

The New Zealand Wars Memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka continues to be a focus for the strong emotions evoked by the conflicts and their aftermath. While intended as a way to honour the fallen, the monument also memorialises the perceived ‘victory’ of one group over another, without acknowledging the very great sacrifices made on both sides. The inscription and Lord Plunket’s speech encapsulate the attitudes of its time of construction, and the monument can easily be viewed as a reminder of the negative – and devastating – effects of the colonisation of New Zealand on the Maori population. Minor vandalism of the monument has occurred since its unveiling; however during the 1990s two incidents 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.

Late on the night of 5 February 1991, the marble statue of the soldier was toppled from its pedestal and attacked, being broken into eight large pieces and hundreds of smaller chips. In place of the statue a large sign was left on the pedestal, which read ‘In remembrance of the Maori people who suffered in the military campaigns – honour the Treaty of Waitangi.’ The damage was considered to be so bad that the statue was deemed to be beyond repair, and the face and rifle were missing entirely from the fragments. The statue was not replaced on the pedestal and it remains empty. Responsibility for the action was claimed by the Waitangi Action Alliance of Taranaki, who stated that the oppressive symbolism of the monument was a glorification of dishonesty, greed and murder, which immortalised the people and means ‘by which illegal land occupations were enforced and Maori civilian communities attacked and destroyed.’ Members of the community, including the Returned Services Association, expressed their anger at the vandalism of ‘part of the community’s heritage’, while the New Plymouth police said that the damage to the statue ‘would receive more attention than that given to other wilful damage cases.’

A subsequent Treaty protest action occurred in February 1995, when three of the now statue-less pedestal’s supporting columns were removed and the monument covered in graffiti. The messages called for awareness (‘Ma mauranga’), ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’, ‘Honour the Treaty’, and ‘Go home Imperial soldiers – Return to sender’ accompanied by a depiction of an envelope. Maori commentator Te Ururoa Flavell remarked at the time, ‘If this (the desecration) makes people sit up and consider the plight of Maoridom over the years then it will be justified.’

The Marsland Hill memorial is not the only New Zealand Wars memorial site that has been the focus of social protest action. The New Zealand Wars Memorial statue in Auckland’s Symonds Street Cemetery (Register no. 4493, Category 2) was tarred and feathered as a protest during the 1981 Springbok Tour, and the wreck of the Wars-era PS Rangiriri in Hamilton was also the subject of political vandalism during Waitangi Day protests in the mid 1990s.

International academics have termed sites like this as having significant ‘discord value’, for their ability to catalyse and encourage debate and discussion about difficult issues in a public forum. Maclean and Phillips have also shown that the study of war memorials can shed light on politics, the interplay between social groups, gender relationships, the power of ideology, and ethnic relationships in New Zealand: ‘War memorials did not emerge after each war as an automatic unthinking response, as a natural and time-honoured way of wrapping up each armed conflict. Rather, they were deliberate and often controversial acts of social control. Certain social groups were especially influential, and they acted with definite ideological purposes in mind.’

While the attitudes expressed in memorials such as that at Marsland Hill/Pukaka can appear to enshrine, and therefore celebrate, cultural and social perspectives that differ from those that the present society is working to redress, this is one of the qualities in which their heritage value lies. Today the New Zealand Wars Memorial can be read as a stark reminder of the formative events that shaped New Zealand, and as a symbol of their ongoing historical, cultural and social legacy.

Physical Description

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is located on the top of Marsland Hill/Pukaka, a landmark in close proximity to central New Plymouth. The memorial is sited in the grassed, open space of the Marsland Hill Historic Reserve, surrounded by other monuments and historic sites on the hilltop, but not crowded by these. Nearby is the Boer War Memorial (Register no. 845, Category 2) and the Kibby Carillon (a memorial to Mabel Kibby donated by her husband George in 1971), as well as a memorial seat dedicated to local landscape painter Bernard Aris. A Heritage Trail sign provides interpretation of the historic nature of the site.

Towards the southern end of the hill is located an early settler cemetery, while further in this direction is historic New Plymouth Prison (Register no. 903, Category 1). Down the hillside to the north of the New Zealand Wars Memorial is the 1842 grave of prominent settler Charles Armitage Brown, while at the base of this slope is St Mary’s Church (now known as the Taranaki Cathedral, Register no. 148, Category 1), with its historic graveyard featuring the graves of New Plymouth settlers and the burial site for six Maori chiefs killed at the battle at Mahoetahi during the New Zealand Wars. A memorial to the Taranaki Militia and Volunteers was also moved to the church grounds around 1917, and a recent memorial inside the building is dedicated to all of the Maori people who died in the New Zealand Wars.

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is a significant presence within the collection of monuments on the hilltop due to its scale and design. Its location at the northern end of the hilltop plateau reflects the link between its subject matter and the site, as this was the spot on which the military barracks were situated. This location also affords the visitor expansive views across the city, with viewshafts through the surrounding trees directed towards Paritutu and the Tasman Sea. Seats are provided, encouraging visitors to rest and contemplate while enjoying the view.

The monument is approached from Robe Street, up a sealed driveway which directs the visitor towards a path to the hilltop. The memorial pedestal sits on top of a stepped base of two layers of concrete, topped with a further four layers of rusticated ashlar blocks of New Plymouth andesite. Above this is a solid layer of squared granite. Together these layers form a tapered plinth for an ornately carved marble pedestal, which in turn formerly supported a marble statue representing a colonial trooper. The entire structure (as it is today) is approximately 6 metres high.

The marble pedestal is of a four-sided design, each face roughly oriented towards a compass point. Like the base, it is also stepped in layers of decreasing dimension, tapering towards the top. The lowest and widest layer is a band of plain marble, with squared projections at each corner. These form a base for fluted pilasters, which adorn the corners of the next layer. This layer features carved inscriptions in recessed octagonal medallions on each face. The inscriptions are lettered in lead. The north face reads ‘To the honoured memory of the officers and men of H.M. Naval, Military and Colonial Forces and Loyal Maoris who fell in action or died during the Maori Wars 1845–47:1860–70. Erected by their comrades and fellow countrymen from all parts of the British Empire, April 1909’; and the west face reads ‘Unveiled by His Excellency the Governor The Rgt Hon Baron Plunket KCMG KCVO May 7 1909.’ The East face is dedicated: ‘The following Imperial Corps served in the New Zealand Wars: Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Marines, Commissariat, Military Train, Army Hospital Corps’; and the south face is inscribed: ‘For the Committee S. Percy Smith Chairman, E. Dockrill Treasurer, W. F. Gordon Secretary, Capt F. J. Mace NZC Prime Mover’.

The next level up features more ornate classical styling, in the form of carved scroll volutes atop decorative brackets, positioned on each corner and sitting above a corbelled string course. These volute brackets formerly supported decorative ball ornaments (visible in photographs as late as the mid 1980s), which are now removed. From here the pedestal narrows to a sharply vertical squared column, and this level features extensive inscriptions on each face, set into slightly recessed arched medallions. Carved sprigs of ivy (the symbol of everlasting life and resurrection) fall from the top of each corner, and carved garlands of foliage are draped around the top of the pedestal.

The inscriptions at this level are as follows. The east face lists vessels of H.M. Navy which served in the New Zealand Wars. The west face is dedicated to the Imperial regiments which served in New Zealand. The south face of this level is left blank, while the north face is inscribed: ‘The following colonial forces served in the New Zealand Wars : N.Z. Militia, [N.Z.] Volunteers Mounted, [N.Z. Volunteers] Foot, [N.Z. Volunteers] Naval, [N.Z. Volunteers] Engineers, [N.Z.] Military Settlers, [N.Z.] Defence Force, [N.Z.] Armed Constabulary, Loyal Maoris [sic].’

The memorial is surrounded by a fence of wrought-iron railings, with concrete pillars and footings.

Comparative Analysis:

The New Zealand Wars Memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka is not amongst the earliest permanent memorials to the New Zealand Wars. Maclean and Phillips identify two collective monuments (to casualties at Gate Pa and of Te Kooti’s 1868 raid near Gisborne) and three other war memorials that were erected during or very soon after the events (1843-1872). One of these early collective monuments is at New Plymouth’s Te Henui Cemetery: a monument to their fallen comrades left by the departing Imperial 57th Middlesex Regiment around 1867. The other two are at Otahuhu (Nixon Monument, Register No. 531, Category 2), and Moutoa Gardens in Whanganui (Moutoa Monument, Register no. 987, Category 2). Only about seven other collective grave monuments were erected 1872-1906. In South Taranaki a memorial to Von Tempsky at Te Ngutu o te Manu Domain was unveiled in 1890.

Many of the other New Zealand Wars memorials date from two later phases: 1906-1920, in which more than 20 memorials were built; and 1925-1930, in which around 12 memorials were constructed. The Marsland Hill monument dates from the first of these two phases, and is one of the earliest in that group. It is also notable for its instigation by a committee of veterans of the battles, and at its time of construction was thought to be a rare and early example of a monument with a national scope instead of being of specific local or regional relevance.

One of the most useful examples for comparative analysis with the New Plymouth example is the New Zealand War Memorial in Auckland’s Domain (Register no. 4493, Category 2). This monument also dates from the same phase of memorial construction as the Marsland Hill memorial, although with a later date of unveiling in 1920 (though it had been planned since 1912). Like the New Plymouth example, this memorial features a statue and was also the work of W. Parkinson & Co. However the location of the New Plymouth memorial on Marsland Hill/Pukaka, on the site of the former regimental barracks and refuge for the townspeople, gives it direct relevance to its subject matter. It is of special significance as a public monument in Taranaki, where the wars began, and as a site of continuing relevance as a focal point for Maori protest action, which can catalyse discussion and debate about these issues. The heritage significance of the New Zealand Wars Memorial on Marsland Hill is also enhanced by the surrounding memorials and monuments, of which there are many.

Another useful example for comparison is the NZHPT-registered Kemp Monument (Register no. 165) in Whanganui, erected in memory of Muaupoko leader Te Rangihiwinui (also known as Taitoko, Te Keepa, or Major Kemp) who was ‘arguably one of the most important of the Maori soldiers who supported the Government’ in the New Zealand Wars. This monument dates from around the same time as the New Zealand Wars Memorial in New Plymouth, and was registered Category 1 for its association with a key figure in the New Zealand Wars and also for the symbolic and historic significance of its location in Moutoa Gardens/Pakaitore, amongst other New Zealand Wars memorials and in ‘a place of great cultural significance to Maori and Pakeha.’

Construction Dates

1956 -
Cornice on monument damaged by vandals

1991 -
Statue vandalised: removed from pedestal and broken into pieces; not reinstated

1995 -
Pedestal vandalised: graffiti and damage to marble columns

Original Construction
1909 -

Construction Details

Concrete, andesite and granite base with marble pedestal; wrought iron railings with concrete pillars.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

2nd April 2013

Report Written By

Blyss Wagstaff

Information Sources

MacLean, 1990

Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990

Prickett, 2002 (2)

N. Prickett, Landscapes of Conflict - A Field Guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House New Zealand, 2002

Lambert, 1983

G & R Lambert. An Illustrated History of Taranaki, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1983.

Prickett, 1990

Nigel Prickett, Historic Taranaki: An Archaeological Guide, GP Books, Wellington, 1990

Wells, 1878 (1976)

B Wells, The History of Taranaki, Edmonson & Avery 'Taranaki News Office', New Plymouth, 1878. Reprinted by Capper Press, Christchurch, 1976

Ward, A 1997

Alan Ward, National Overview – Vol III – Waitangi Tribunal Rangahaua Whanui Series, GP Publications, Wellington, 1997

Day, 2010

Kelvin Day (ed). Contested Ground Te Whenua I Tohea: The Taranaki Wars 1860-1881, Huia Publishers, Wellington, 2010

Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology

Bulletin of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology

Dodd, Andy, ‘The last remnants of ‘New Zealand’s First Navy’: The PS Rangiriri’, 2008, Vol 32

Fairclough, 2008

G. Fairclough, R. Harrison, J. H. Jameson Jnr, J. Schofield (eds), The Heritage Reader, Routledge, London and New York, 2008

Dolff-Bonekamper, Gabi, ‘Sites of Memory and Sites of Discord: Historic monuments as a medium for discussing conflict in Europe’.

Walton, 2000

A. Walton, Archaeology of the Taranaki-Wanganui Region. Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2000

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available, on request.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.