New Zealand Wars Memorial

Wakefield Street And Symonds Street, Wakefield Street Reserve, Auckland

  • New Zealand Wars Memorial. From:
    Copyright: craigsyd. Taken By: craigsyd - flickr. Date: 9/02/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4493 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes part of the land shown in CT NA44A/619 (as shown on Map C in Appendix 4 of registration report), and the monument, its fittings and fixtures, thereon. The area of registration extends one metre beyond the outer edge of the lowermost step in all directions.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Lot 2 DP 86367 (CT NA44A/619), North Auckland Land District


The New Zealand Wars Memorial commemorates Pakeha and Maori who fought on the side of the British in the New Zealand Wars (1845-72). The monument was unveiled in 1920 in the Wakefield Street Reserve, in Auckland City.

The monument is one of a number of war memorials to the New Zealand Wars erected in the 1920s. Prior to the twentieth century, very few memorials were erected to commemorate the colonial wars of the 1840s to the 1870s in New Zealand. This was largely because the concept of erecting collective monuments to those who fought in war was still at an early stage during the mid to late nineteenth century. But historians Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips also suggest that it may have been due to the Pakeha frustration and embarrassment at the time about the long, drawn-out conflict, which ended with no clear-cut victory. It was not until the early 1900s that interest began to develop in erecting memorials specifically to the New Zealand Wars. This occurred as a reaction to the deteriorating headboards of the soldiers in the wars and as young Pakeha New Zealanders began to look back on the pioneering days of the previous century with nostalgia.

The idea of a collective memorial in Auckland for the New Zealand Wars originated with the Victoria League in the early 1900s. The Victoria League was founded in London in 1901, with the aim of conserving 'the deeds of British soldiers and sailors, and other patriotic men and women in the Empire'. At the time, colonial troops were supporting the British in the Boer War (1899 -1902). An Auckland branch of the League was established in 1909, shortly after New Zealand became a Dominion, to help 'foster the bonds of Empire'. The Victoria League was one of the most active groups in commemorating the dead of the New Zealand Wars. The focus of their activities was initially the restoration of New Zealand War graves, in order to promote Imperial ties to the younger generation by teaching school children about the 'Maori war'. Edith Stratham, who was in charge of the project, remarked that most people knew nothing about the war. However, when the League discovered that many of the graves were unmarked, they formed the idea of erecting a collective memorial instead.

The erection of the memorial, from its inception to final unveiling, took many years. It began in 1911, when the Government gave the Victoria League £100 for the memorial. The city council then provided a site for the memorial on a reserve on the corner of Wakefield Street and Symonds Street. Wakefield Street was a major thoroughfare at the time and there was already a statue of a major colonial figure, the former Governor and Premier Sir George Grey (erected in 1904, moved in 1922), at the bottom of the street. The Reserve was also close to a number of other places associated with the New Zealand Wars, including the Symonds Street cemetery, where many soldiers were buried.

The Victoria League held a competition for the design of the memorial, which was initially won by a local architect, John Park. However, the city council wanted a more conspicuous design, and the project was delayed for two years until the Government provided a further £1000 pounds for the project. When the Victoria League held another competition it was won by British sculptor, T. Eyre Macklin, much to the consternation of some local sculptors. T. Eyre Macklin (1867-1943) was a landscape and portrait painter, sculptor, illustrator and engraver. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1902. The Auckland Weekly News described him as 'an eminent Royal Academician. His other sculpting works included the South African War Memorial, in Newcastle on Tyne, England.

Dates visible on the bronze castings indicate that Macklin's work was carried out in 1915. Delivery of the castings to Auckland, however, was delayed by the First World War (1914-1918). After they eventually arrived in Auckland in 1917, the works remained in storage until 1919 while decisions were made about the materials and construction methods of the associated obelisk. The obelisk was constructed by W. Parkinson & Co., a local company.

Following construction, the memorial was unveiled on 18 August 1920, attended by a large crowd including a number of veterans. The ceremony was presided over by the Victoria League President, Mr. W. J. Napier, who handed over the memorial to the Mayor of Auckland Mr. J. H. Gunson. Veteran Lieutenant-Colonel Morrow also spoke, remembering 'a distant past, when the youth and manhood of this province was summoned by the tocsin (sic) of war, to uphold British rule in this colony'. In fact, the dates of the Wars on the inscription were incorrect, reading 1845-66, and were only corrected after a veteran complained. The veteran also suggested that the monument be translated into Maori, but his suggestion was declined on the grounds of lack of money.

The New Zealand Wars Memorial's exclusive tribute to those who fought on the British side of the conflict conveys the dominant view of Pakeha New Zealanders at the time, and support for the British Empire. The references to peace and the symbolism of unity between Maori and Pakeha in the artwork of the memorial also reflect the prevailing perception that the New Zealand Wars had led to racial harmony. These views were demonstrated in the speeches at the unveiling of the memorial. The Victoria League President, Mr. Napier, mentioned that 'the heroes whose virtues and memories they were perpetuating in this monument did great service in their fight for civilisation ... They should cherish the memory of those who fell in the swamps, on the hillsides, and in the bush of New Zealand to secure to them and their children this great country, and for the betterment of both races'. He paid a tribute to the chivalrous Maoris who had fought with the British. In his reply, Mr. Gudgeon said 'there was no finer aboriginal race than the Maoris. They were proud of them.' Maori who fought against the British and other colonial forces were not specifically mentioned.

For many years, the Victoria League laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial and at Queen Victoria's statue in Albert Park on Empire Day (later known as Commonwealth Day, and subsequently the Queen's Birthday). However, as attitudes changed in the later twentieth century, the New Zealand Wars Memorial became the focus of protest on a number of occasions. In 1981, the statue was tarred and feathered and pulled off its feet during the Springbok Tour protests. A few months later the head of the statue was hacked off and the statue was removed by the council. The head was never recovered and the statue was reinstated with a new head in August 2004. Today, graffiti on the memorial includes the words 'Peace - suxessful (sic) colonialism' and 'reread the treaty'.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Memorial has historical value for its association with the Victoria League, and for reflecting past attitudes to conflict, race relations, colonialism and commemoration in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Wars Memorial has aesthetic value for its artistic qualities and its visual impact on the Symonds Street streetscape, which is enhanced by its reserve setting.

It is socially significant as a place of remembrance about the New Zealand Wars and later on, as a focus for protest.

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

The New Zealand Wars Memorial reflects important aspects of New Zealand history, notably early twentieth-century attitudes towards colonial conflict.

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

The place is associated with events of importance in New Zealand history, particularly the New Zealand Wars.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

The memorial has considerable potential for public education as a public monument that graphically conveys information about New Zealand history in both visual and written form. It is situated in a public reserve close to two major universities, and on a major thoroughfare in the city centre.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The place has strong commemorative value, actively remembering men who fought in the New Zealand Wars.

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

The memorial is part of an important historical and cultural landscape in the Symonds Street area. In particular, it is one of several significant historic places in the area that is closely connected to the New Zealand Wars. These include the Albert Barracks Wall 1846-52 (NZHPT Register # 12, Category I), the former Government House 1855-56 (NZHPT Register # 105, Category I), the former Supreme Court 1865-68 (NZHPT Register # 17, Category I) and the Symonds Street Cemetery (where many soldiers from the New Zealand Wars are buried).


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Macklin, T.Eyre

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Burgess, Roderick

Sculptor 2004- Register number 4493

W.Parkinson & Co.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The New Zealand Wars Memorial is located in the Wakefield Street Reserve, on the corner of Wakefield Street and Symonds Street in the southern part of Auckland's Central Business District. The reserve is triangular in shape, with Wakefield Street bounding it on two sides and Symonds Street on the third. It is approximately 1000 m² in area. The monument is situated in the middle of the reserve and is surrounded by mature trees.

The monument consists of a short obelisk mounted on a square plinth, with a life-size bronze statue of a female figure at the base of the monument on its eastern side. Both the plinth and statue stand on top of three shallow steps.

The plinth is set in concrete at ground level, and is surrounded by the steps on all four sides. The obelisk and plinth are constructed of grey and white Takaka marble. An inscription on the elevation of the obelisk facing Symonds Street reads: 'In memory of the brave men belonging to the Imperial and Colonial forces and the friendly Maoris who gave their lives for the country during the N.Z. Wars 1845 - 72. Through war they won the peace we know'.

A bronze plaque (790 mm²) on the plinth beneath the inscription is entitled 'Peace'. The plaque depicts a Pakeha male (wearing a shirt, trousers and boots) shaking hands with a Maori male (wearing a pendant and traditional skirt), both enclosed within the wings of a female angel.

Another bronze plaque (also 790 mm²) on the side facing Wakefield Street is entitled 'Onwards'. It depicts a Maori figure (wearing a feather cloak and traditional skirt) holding a spear, and a female figure in classical drapery holding the New Zealand flag. The female rests a hand on the New Zealand crest. Above the crest a lion rampant holds the Union Jack.

A 1.8m (6 foot) bronze-cast female figure stands on the top step (on the Symonds Street side), dressed in classical drapery below the breasts. The left hand holds a New Zealand flag, which trails down over the steps. The right hand is extended up towards the obelisk. Inscribed on the bottom of the statue is 'E. Groult Fondeur Paris. H. Lecouty Paris - C'. The statue originally held a long palm branch in its right hand. The date of the removal of the palm is unknown, but it was sometime before 1981.

The head of the statue was removed in 1981. The rest of the statue was subsequently removed from the monument for restoration. In August 2004, the statue was returned to the monument with a new head. The head was modelled in clay and recast in silicon bronze by sculptor Roderick Burgess.

Construction Dates

1912 -
April - August 1912

Original Construction
1919 - 1920

Palm branch removed from statue sometime before October 1981 (date unknown)

1981 -
Figure tarred and feathered and pulled off its feet in August 1981. Statue restored at a cost of $2,000 and reinstated

1981 -
Head removed in October 1981. Council subsequently removed statue for restoration

2004 -
Statue reinstated with a new head in August 2004

Construction Details

Takaka marble obelisk, with bronze cast statue.

Information Sources

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Scrapbook, May 1970

Auckland Weekly News

Auckland Weekly News

26 August 1920

Woodward, 1972

Robin Woodward, 'Public Sculptures in Auckland, 1895 - 1971', MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 1972

MacLean, 1990

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

Maslen, 1985

Shona Maslen, The Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship in Auckland: A Further 25 Years, Auckland, 1985

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

19 August 1920, 19 October 1981, 26 August 1981.

Simmonds, 1960

Alma N. Simmonds, Fifty Years of the Victoria League in Auckland, New Zealand: 1910 - 1960, Golden Jubilee Year, Auckland, 1960

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region 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.