Cook Monument

Kaiti Beach Road, Gisborne

  • Cook Monument.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 3/04/2003.
  • Cook Monument.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Martin Jones.
  • Cook Monument.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: F. van der Heijden. Date: 22/07/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 3473 Date Entered 15th February 1990

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 7903 [National Reserve (Cook Landing Site) NZ Gazette 1990, p.3923], Gisborne Land District and the structure known as Cook Monument thereon and its fixtures and fittings.

City/District Council

Gisborne District

Region

Gisborne Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 7903 [National Reserve (Cook Landing Site) NZ Gazette 1990, p.3923], Gisborne Land District

Summaryopen/close

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is from an Upgrade Report 29 July 2011. Information in square brackets indicate modifications made to the entry following completion of the Upgrade Report.

The place where the first land based Aotearoa New Zealand encounter between Maori and European occurred, is commemorated by the Cook Monument, located within the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve. [This is the first national historic reserve on mainland New Zealand] and this unique reserve status underlines the place’s [outstanding] significance to all New Zealanders.

On 9 October 1769 Lieutenant James Cook and some of the men from the ship Endeavour came ashore on the east side of the Turanganui River, becoming the first Europeans to set foot in New Zealand. After the initial Maori settlement of New Zealand, the event commemorated by this monument is arguably the most significant in New Zealand's history, a date that marked the beginnings of huge change to the [lives] of Maori. It was also a day that marked a link between local people and their ancestral homelands, as Tupaea the Ra’iatean high priest navigator who sailed with Cook first met Maori. The wider landscape of the Cook Landing Site has national and international cultural and historical significance as a place of arrivals, navigation and of meetings. It is an area that represents a network of sites, interconnected and linked with stories, events and people.

The foreshore of Turanganui River is a sacred site where more than 400 years before the arrival of Cook, Horouta canoe landed at the river mouth, a location that celebrates Polynesian star navigators and their achievements. Renowned Cook scholar, Dame Anne Salmond, describes it as a meeting place of cultures, challenges and shootings, as well as friendly exchanges. It was on a large rock, Te Toka a Taiau, some metres upstream, that the first European (Cook) and a local man greeted with a hongi. Various developments that began in the late 1860s have eroded the landscape significantly, through drainage, reclamation and levelling of sand dunes as well as the blasting of rocks at the mouth and up stream on the River, including Te Toka a Taiau. Underwater remnants of the original boat harbour remain visible beyond the port reclamation.

The monument, erected in 1906, celebrates the landing of James Cook and his men at this site in October 1769. The precise site of Cook’s landing was identified by William Williams in 1888 as being what was known as the ‘boat-harbour, immediately on the south east side of the mouth of the river, and separated from it by a narrow reef of rocks’. While the geography of the area had already been altered (Williams, for example, noted that the ‘woods’ from which Maori emerged during the first encounter had been removed fifty years previously) it was still possible to identify the critical places where Cook and his men landed during their three days in Poverty Bay. Following an editorial in the Gisborne Times in July 1902 expressing what ‘a disgrace’ it was that the inhabitants of the district had no mark of respect for the site of [Cook's] first landing in New Zealand, a committee for the Cook Memorial Fund was established. It was intended that the monument be a national one and subscriptions were called from the rest of the country. The total cost was £1066; with nationwide school children’s fund contributing £203. Government granted £500, £213 was from public donation, and the final £150 was donated by the local Patriotic Fund Committee (in return for a reference on the monument to local Boer War troopers). The contractors listed Cook’s name on one side and the 123 Poverty Bay troopers took up the other three sides of the obelisk, resulting in a public uproar.

The monument was unveiled by Minister of Native Affairs Sir James Carroll during an elaborate day of ceremonies on the 8 October 1906. Immediately the monument was steeped in intense controversy over the inclusion of the Boer War names, attracting media comment from Wellington’s Evening Post which described the idea as a ‘monumental folly’ and ‘hybrid pillar’. A Cook Memorial Rectification Fund and committee was established to fix the problem, with the panels being moved firstly to the Trafalgar band rotunda and finally to the Gisborne R.S.A. In August 1964 the Gisborne Regional Committee of the NZ Historic Places Trust urged the preservation of the Cook landing site (including an uninterrupted view to the sea) and the land surrounding the monument was declared a Historic Reserve to maintain the integrity of the site and vista from Young Nick's Head across the sweep of the bay. On 9 October 1969, the Cook Bicentenary saw the unveiling of a plaque. The area around the monument has seen substantial change of use and development related to the port, this has impacted on the sightline to Young Nick’s Head despite the Planning Tribunal creating a ‘cone of vision’ in 1987 which restricted development in order to retain the sightline. In 1990 the reserve was designated a National Historic Reserve, the first on New Zealand mainland, and placed under the guardianship of the Department of Conservation. The monument and the Cook Landing Site are an integral part of the Te Unga Mai festival and as such being used to educate the general public on the events that took place in October 1769.

Fabricated in England and erected by Auckland monumental masons McNab and Mason, the Cook Monument is a concrete obelisk with approximately 200 millimetre granite sheathing over the pedestal and obelisk. No.8 wire ties were used for the pedestal sheathing and the granite slabs of the obelisk shaft are dowelled to the concrete core. Slab joints throughout are pointed with black coloured mortar. The three stepped cement plastered concrete base supports a pedestal consisting of three sections, sheathed in polished red brown granite with an incised line approximately 5 mm from the edges of the lower two. There is a slight taper to each section. The upper and tallest section of the pedestal has a polished margin with a large inscription panel on each face. Above this is a pediment ‘plinth’ with an engraved anthemion design on each face. This supports the granite sheathed obelisk shaft with its pyramidal top.

The Cook Monument and its curtilage had strong aesthetic significance prior to the development of the Port, and now that aesthetic is as an oasis, albeit hemmed in by the Port operational area, that enables commemorative gatherings to take place and for people to reflect on the very significant events that took place at this site even though now hemmed in by industrial port buildings. The obelisk itself has aesthetic values as a well-proportioned and handsome memorial located on what was originally Kaiti beach, and is now the working environment of the Eastland Port Company. It stands within the Cook Landing Site National Historic Reserve, and is a major element of the immediate landscape that as the monument’s curtilage, is included in the NZHPT Category I historic place registration recognising the national and international significance of both the monument and the Reserve. It has architectural significance as a monument designed and built by McNab and Mason, monumental masons of Auckland, and as a good example of public sculpture from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although the port developments have compromised this wider historical and cultural landscape, it is still present and of significance, both to Maori and Europeans.The Cook Monument has historical significance because it stands at the place where the first European explorer set foot on New Zealand soil, marking the end of the isolation of New Zealand from significant European contact and opening the way for European colonisation and development, and the beginning of an irreversible change of Maori history. It is associated with Captain James Cook, who is widely regarded as one of England’s greatest maritime explorers. Poverty Bay is the area first sighted and explored by Cook during his first voyage to New Zealand.

The monument and the Cook Landing Site have important ongoing commemorative values. The monument has high symbolic and community value, being funded by a national subscription which included fund-raising by New Zealand school children, and the monument and surrounding reserve continue to be the centre of regular commemorations and celebrations, giving it very high commemorative value. There is potential for the Cook Monument to be used more extensively for public education, as an important part of the Cook Landing Site, where the European exploration and colonisation of New Zealand began, and the New Zealand nation that has since emerged first started in the encounter between Maori and Europeans.

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

DESCRIPTION:

On 8 October 1769, Captain James Cook made his first landing on New Zealand soil. This landing site is marked by a monument unveiled in 1906.

In 1888 Archdeacon W.L. Williams prepared a careful and authoritative account of Cook's landing at Poverty Bay. He gave precise details of the landing including the exact position of the old boat harbour - the site of the landing - before harbour development and the building of the breakwaters caused silting up of the area. The Cook Monument on Kaiti foreshore is within 100 metres and possibly as close as 50 metres to the actual landing site.

A Cook Monument Committee was set up in Gisborne in 1902 with Archdeacon Herbert W. Williams as chairman. It was intended that the monument be a national one and subscriptions were called from the rest of the country. A nationwide school children's fund contributed £203.00 and the Government granted £500.00. In 1905 the Salvation Army filmed a re-enactment of the landing. This most probably stimulated public interest and helped the Cook Monument Fund. By mid 1906 the granite monument was completed at a cost of £1066.00. The monument was unveiled by Sir James Carroll on 7 October 1906.

In August 1964 the Gisborne Regional Committee of the Historic Places Trust urged for the preservation of the Cook landing site including an uninterrupted view to the sea. Two years later the reserve surrounding the monument was declared a Historic Reserve to maintain the integrity of the site and vista from Young Nick's Head across the sweep of the bay.

On 9 October 1969, the Cook Bicentenary saw the unveiling of a plaque.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Captain James Cook landing at this spot marked the end of the isolation of New Zealand from significant European contact. Here the country was claimed for Great Britain opening the way for European colonisation and development. Next to the initial Maori settlement of New Zealand the event commemorated by this monument is arguably the most significant in New Zealand's history.

ARCHITECTURAL QUALITY:

This is a well proportioned monument sited on Kaiti Beach originally with simple surroundings. Its open siting at the time of construction emphasised its architectural impact.

TOWNSCAPE/LANDSCAPE VALUE:

The significance of the monument and the site is the uninterrupted visual relationship with the bay and Young Nick's Head. It is a striking landmark in the area.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

McNab & Mason Ltd

Stonemasons

McNab was a sculptor and designer based in Auckland. McNab and Mason were responsible for the Cook Monument, Gisborne (1906). His monumental mason business was taken over by Parkinson and Boskill, also of Auckland.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

ARCHITECTURAL DESCRIPTION:

The monument has a general taper above the three steps of the cement plastered concrete base. This base supports a pedestal consisting of three sections sheathed in polished red-brown granite with an incised line approximately 5mm from the edges of the lower two. There is a slight taper to each section. The upper and taller section of the pedestal has a polished margin with a large inscription panel on each face. Above this is a pedimented 'plinth' with an engraved anthemion design on each face. This supports the granite sheathed obelisk shaft with its pyramidal top.

MODIFICATIONS:

None

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1906 -
Monument erected (with South African War panels inscribed)

Modification
1912 -
South African War panels removed

Modification
1919 -
Iron cannon installed at base

Addition
1969 -
plaque added to monument

Construction Details

Concrete with approximately 200mm granite sheathing for pedestal and obelisk. No.8 wire ties used for pedestal sheathing. The granite slabs of the obelisk shaft are dowelled to the concrete core. Slab joints throughout pointed with black coloured mortar.

Completion Date

29th July 2011

Report Written By

Gail Henry, Linda Pattison; Damian Skinner

Information Sources

Gisborne Herald

14 Dec 2012

'Revenue May go to Nation', 12 October 1982.

'Aim to Dispel Great White Footstep Image', Gisborne Herald, 13 July 1982

Gisborne Times

Gisborne Times

24 July 1902

30 July 1902

08 October 1906

Porter, 1978

Frances Porter. A Sense of History, 1978

McKey, 1982

J A McKey. Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, North Island, New Zealand, 1982

pp26

Williams Memorial Library

Williams Memorial Library

'Celebrating Souvenir', Cook Bicentennary, October 1969

Gisborne and District, New Zealand, vertical files in H.B. Williams Library

Spedding, 2006

Michael Spedding, The Turanganui River: A Brief History, New Zealand Department of Conservation, 2006

Other Information

A fully referenced report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern office

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.