Sir Joseph Ward (1856-1930) was a significant figure in Southland and New Zealand’s history. He became New Zealand’s 17th Prime Minister between 1906 and 1912, and again from 1928-1930, before resigning due to ill health. He was succeeded by George W Forbes as Prime Minister in 1930.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Heritage Assessment Adviser for the Otago/Southland Area Office, Sarah Gallagher, says the statue commemorates the early life of this dynamic local figure whose work had a significant impact not only on the development of Bluff, but also on the nation as a Member of Parliament and through to his premiership. “The statue has both aesthetic and historic significance. He was ever a champion of his hometown of Bluff,” says Sarah.
William H. Feldon’s privately commissioned statue of businessman, statesman and politician, Sir Joseph Ward, stands at the head of the main street, in Motupōhue Bluff, 20 kms from Invercargill.
Born in Melbourne, Ward was the fifth of ten children of Williams and Hannah Ward. He moved with his mother and siblings to Bluff in 1863. Starting as a post office messenger boy at 13 years, Ward branched out into business, founding the prominent stock and station company J.G. Ward and Co. He was chair of the company that built the Ocean View Freezing Works near Bluff.
He entered politics in 1878 and was elected to the Bluff Borough Council. He was Mayor of Bluff from 1881-1888 and again in 1897-98. He was a member of the Bluff Harbour Board between 1881-1917 and was elected to Parliament as the Member for Awarua in 1887, becoming a cabinet minister in 1891. In 1894, facing financial ruin, he resigned as Colonial Treasurer. He quickly recovered and once again became a cabinet minister before becoming Prime Minister in August 1906.
Following the death of Sir Joseph Ward in 1930, William Handyside, a southern businessman, commissioned Auckland sculptor, W.H. Feldon, to create a sculpture of Ward. The statue of Sir Joseph Ward was part of a set of three statues that were originally grouped together outside the Invercargill Post Office.
The style of the sculpture of Ward is typical of Feldon’s work and similar to the figures of Lord Kitchener and Jellicoe that remain on the Gala Street Reserve in Invercargill, where the statue of Ward was previously located. The Ward statue was moved to its present site in 1971.
You can read the listing report on our website.