Historical Significance or Value
In general, large nineteenth and early twentieth century cemeteries have potentially strong historical significance for their close associations with a multitude of past lives, achievements and experiences. Within this framework, O’Neill’s Point Cemetery can be considered especially important for its connections with people and events of importance to our understanding of Aotearoa New Zealand’s, and in particular Auckland’s, multicultural history. It is of particular note for its strong reflection of the involvement and sacrifice of Pasifika servicemen – including those from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu and Niue – as well as Māori and Pākehā soldiers in the First World War. It is additionally associated with diverse attitudes to the war effort, including organised passive resistance among Māori communities linked with the Kīngitanga movement. The place is historically important for the extent to which it reflects the devastating impacts of the influenza pandemic in 1918, especially its disproportionate impacts on Pacific Islanders and Māori. It is important in relation to New Zealand’s wider connections with the Pacific during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including as an agent of the British Empire.
The place is also historically significant for demonstrating the creation of large second-generation cemeteries on the outskirts of Auckland, particularly after introduction of the 1882 Cemeteries Act. It has strong links through individual burials with early European religious activity in New Zealand and the wider Pacific – especially the early history of Catholicism in this country, and Protestant missionary activity among Māori and in Melanesia. It is reported to have been the first place in Auckland where a Theosophical Society funeral service was performed. It also has close connections with a range of other histories as diverse as journalism, boatbuilding, surveying, architecture, photography and war graves conservation.
Archaeological Significance or Value
The place has archaeological value for the extent to which a greater understanding of the past can be gained from the use of appropriate methods on visible and other remnants. The cemetery contains a wide range of monuments from the 1890s onwards, the study of which can yield knowledge about past commemoration, monument production, economic and cultural connections, social relationships and other matters. The place is one of a small group of substantial, second-generation cemeteries in the Auckland region that can provide knowledge about changing, late nineteenth-century ideas on public health. Non-intrusive methods of investigation such as geophysical survey may provide particular information about evolving aspects of cemetery layout and design.
Social Significance or Value
The place is socially significant as a repository of memory and identity for local communities at Devonport and Takapuna, who have consistently promoted the cemetery’s care and maintenance. It is also of wider social importance as a place of gathering on ANZAC Day to remember the contributions of all who served and died in conflict. ANZAC Day services have been held at the cemetery since 1921. Those remembered include servicemen from varied communities, including Pacific Island nations and Māori communities within New Zealand.
Spiritual Significance or Value
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery is spiritually important as the final resting place and site of commemoration for a large number of forebears, ancestors and other notable individuals who are linked with diverse communities – both within Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. Its importance as a place of reverence is evidenced by ongoing care for the place by both local and national government authorities. Its importance as a place of spiritual value is long-lasting, having been continuously present since 1891. It has gained additional significance through its incorporation of military burials of spiritual and other importance to the wider community.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place has special significance for the extent to which it reflects the involvement of Pacific Island soldiers in the First World War as part of New Zealand’s military forces. Through its closely associated burials and monuments, it demonstrates the shared connection and experience of Pasifika and Māori servicemen, who trained and often served together at this time. The place reflects the impacts of events such as the 1918 influenza pandemic on indigenous peoples, and the particular vulnerability of serving soldiers at the end of the conflict – including Pākehā servicemen and Māori objectors to military service. The cemetery directly reflects New Zealand’s strong and diverse connections with the wider Pacific in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – including the country’s role as a colonial administrative, military and economic power.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place has strong associations with a variety of individuals and events of importance in New Zealand history. It has particularly notable connections with Devonport’s function as a training centre for Pacific Island, Māori and Pākehā troops; the history of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, including the Māori and Pacific Island Contingents; and associated people such as Major Henry Peacock, the Reverend William Gittos, and individual recruits from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific Islands including Sergeant Beni Banaba from the Cook Islands, Niue’s first casualty, Private Vilapate, and objectors from Kīngitanga communities who participated in the campaign led by Te Puea against involvement in the First World War - Te Hapa Ihia, Tame Tahi, Kiri Toto and Rupena Hihi.
The cemetery is also the final resting place for Thomas and Mary Poynton, the first Catholic laity in New Zealand; and others of considerable importance in New Zealand and wider Pacific history. The latter include John Palmer, Archdeacon of Southern Melanesia; the controversial first New Zealand governor of the Cook Islands, Walter Gudgeon; and the boatbuilding Logan family, including Archibald Logan – a noted creator of vessels used throughout the Southern Hemisphere. The cemetery is additionally the final place of rest for Sydney Davis, father of Sir Thomas Davis who was prime minister of the Cook Islands in 1978-83 and 1983-87; Wāta te Wahahuia, credited with being the first Māori soldier to fight in the South African War, who composed a haka used as a battle cry by New Zealand contingents in that conflict; and many other individuals of historical note. The place is also associated with the Victoria League, a body promoting Commonwealth connections, which campaigned for the recognition and care of military graves, and regular commemoration on ANZAC and Armistice days. The cemetery’s significance in this regard is enhanced as the place of burial and commemoration of Edith Statham, a leading member of the Victoria League and New Zealand’s first war graves inspector, who directly campaigned for the care of military graves in the cemetery.
(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua
The place can be considered of importance to tangata whenua for its inclusion of several graves of Māori soldiers who died while serving in the Māori contingents and reinforcements during the First World War, and other Māori individuals. It can be considered of particular importance to iwi and hapū linked with the Kīngitanga movement for containing the burials of several individuals who died of influenza at Narrow Neck camp while engaged in a campaign of passive resistance to military conscription, which was led by Te Puea Hērangi.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The place enjoys strong community association and public esteem as a large public cemetery that has been in use for this purpose for a prolonged period of time. Its association and esteem are enhanced by close links with diverse communities in both Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. It holds particular esteem as the final resting place for individuals who served in military forces at a time of global conflict, including recruits from within New Zealand and several Pacific Island nations. The place retains enduring connections with local communities, notably those at Devonport and Takapuna – for whom it formed the main place of burial between the 1890s and late twentieth century.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
The place has special importance for its ability to provide public education about the sacrifice of Pacific Island, Māori and other peoples during the First World War, and the global reach of this conflict. The special significance of the place is enhanced by its capacity to convey information about the closely woven history between New Zealand and the wider Pacific during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including New Zealand’s role as a colonial power. The place has strong potential to provide education about the contribution of Pacific Island peoples to New Zealand many decades before widespread migration to this country from those nations. It has particular ability to provide information about the contribution of individuals from places such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu and Niue. The place is also significant for its ability to provide public education about diverse attitudes to military conflict, particularly objection to participation in the First World War among Waikato Māori; and the impacts of the influenza pandemic on diverse communities within and beyond Aotearoa New Zealand. In addition, this place encompasses a range of stories linked to changes in New Zealand society and attitudes throughout the period it has been in most active use.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The place has commemorative value as a place of private remembrance for over 125 years. It has also been a place of regular public commemoration for a century, since the first recorded ANZAC Day service there in 1921. Other public ceremonies have included Armistice Day services and wreath-laying on the graves of Thomas and Mary Poynton in 1938 to mark the centenary of the first formal Catholic mass held in New Zealand. The place is of commemorative value to diverse communities.
(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places
The place has special or outstanding importance as a rare surviving place in New Zealand associated with the early twentieth-century history of Pasifika peoples in New Zealand. It is particularly important as a rare, well-preserved place connected with Pacific Island involvement in the First World War. It is one of a very small number of cemeteries containing the interments of First World War Pasifika servicemen in New Zealand, and of these places the greatest number of nations and individuals are represented at O’Neill’s Point Cemetery. It incorporates grave markers with inscriptions in diverse Pacific languages, including te reo Māori, Cook Island Māori, and the language of Mota as used by the Melanesian Mission.
Summary of Significance or Values
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery has special or outstanding importance as a rare surviving place in New Zealand associated with the early twentieth-century history of Pasifika peoples in New Zealand. It also has special significance for the extent to which it reflects the involvement of Pacific Island soldiers in the First World War, including the extent to which this experience was shared with Māori colleagues. It has additional value for its ability to provide public education about the sacrifice of Pacific Island, Māori and other peoples during the First World War; and diverse attitudes to military service at that time including objection to participation among Waikato Māori. Its special significance is enhanced by its capacity to convey information about the closely woven history between New Zealand and the wider Pacific during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including New Zealand’s role as a colonial power.
The northern shores of the Waitematā Harbour are of significance to several iwi, having been explored and occupied since early human arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand. According to oral traditions, Te Arawa waka (canoe) under Tama Te Kapua investigated the Waitematā on its way to Tauranga Moana. The Tainui canoe also landed at Te Hau Kapua (Torpedo Bay) in present-day Devonport before arriving at its eventual heartland in the Waikato. Horticultural activity is likely to have occurred on fertile soils at Devonport and around Pupuke Moana (Lake Pupuke) at modern-day Takapuna, and high-quality fishing grounds existed around adjoining shores. Exploitation of kai moana (seafood) is indicated by archaeological features fronting Oneoneroa (Shoal Bay) and Ngātaringa Bay on the Bayswater peninsula. Shell midden on the foreshore to the north of O’Neill’s Point Cemetery suggests at least some activity in the immediate vicinity. The area was heavily contested, with several pā being created on volcanic maunga at Devonport and elsewhere in the broader locality.
Subsequent to formal European colonisation in 1840, the Crown obtained the North Shore area as part of the Mahurangi Block. In 1843, lands between Devonport and Lake Pupuke were surveyed into farm lots, and two years later one of these, Allotment 13, was acquired by Robert Hunt (c.1790-1874). Hunt was one of several purchasers in the immediate vicinity who had come to Auckland from the Hokianga as refugees during the Northern War (1844-5), and been allowed to obtain land using property held in the north as collateral. During the early colonial period, the area between Devonport and Lake Pupuke was described as ‘a sadly waste plain of sterile pipe-clay which grows nothing but dwarf manuka and fern’. Hunt’s land was, however, part of a tract that was especially rich in kāpia or kauri gum – a valuable commodity exported for use as varnish – and continued to be exploited for this purpose until at least the 1890s.
In 1848, Hunt transferred Allotment 13 to prominent local resident Allan O’Neill (1801-1886), who held a number of important provincial positions including Provincial Surveyor and member of Auckland Provincial Council. In 1888, the land passed to O’Neill’s son James Frederick O’Neill (1858-1933), a member of the Lake Road Board. The land’s rural nature contrasted with that of nearby Devonport, which had emerged as a colonial settlement in the 1840s and 1850s; developed as a notable ship-building centre; and expanded rapidly after steam ferry services with Auckland were established in the 1880s.
In December 1889, James O’Neill offered the western part of Allotment 13 to Devonport Borough Council for use as a public cemetery.
The need for a new Devonport cemetery
A new Devonport cemetery was being considered due to the perceived unhealthiness of the settlement’s existing burial ground at Takarunga (Mt Victoria). When initially established, the latter had lain outside Devonport’s main residential areas. Early colonial cemeteries such as Mt Victoria were often created without consideration about how urban expansion might occur. As burial grounds became surrounded by housing, public health concerns due to in-ground seepage into nearby water sources or disease from perceived airborne ‘miasma’ were frequently raised.
From the late 1850s, there was a general move in New Zealand to create larger, second-generation facilities well outside settlement areas. Catering for the living as well as the dead, these were often designed to encourage public recreation, remembrance and moral education through their monuments, layout, setting and other aspects. Such cemeteries were increasingly encouraged by nineteenth-century legislation, the most important being the 1882 Cemeteries Act. For the first time in New Zealand’s colonial history, this established consistent approaches to the creation, siting, design and maintenance of cemeteries, and also required local authorities to provide sufficient facilities. In Auckland, a series of major, second-generation cemeteries were respectively created to the west, east and south of the expanding city at Waikumete (1886), Pūrewa (1889) and Waikaraka (1890). Together with another cemetery at Birkenhead, land at O’Neill’s Point would provide parallel facilities to the north.
Created in 1852, Devonport’s Mt Victoria Cemetery had been the first formal European burial ground on the North Shore but by the 1870s calls were being made for its replacement. Particular concerns were expressed that it was ‘in the most populous part of the borough, on rising ground…with houses on the lower level drawing their water supply from wells’. Issues linked with health and physical well-being can be seen as especially important in Devonport, which gained popularity during the late nineteenth century as a ‘healthy’ seaside suburb and destination with a strong sporting culture and expanding military ties. With the late 1880s creation of major naval and other military facilities at Calliope (1888), North Head (1885-9) and Fort Takapuna (1886), projections of strength linked with imperial power can be regarded as especially prominent.
In 1885-9, Devonport Borough Council attempted to create a new cemetery further away from central Devonport, at Narrow Neck. However, this site’s position within the borough boundaries contravened the 1882 Act and also aroused popular opposition for being too close to the town. A site at O’Neill’s Point circumvented objections by being located just outside the borough boundaries, in an area that remained predominantly rural. Extending into the Waitematā Harbour, the aesthetic qualities of the peninsula were also such that it was proposed that ‘the most beautiful cemetery in New Zealand could be made’.
Creation and early use of O’Neill’s Point Cemetery
Occupying 3.4 hectares (8.5 acres) directly overlooking Shoal Bay, the site offered by O’Neill held numerous advantages in relation to health and other attractiveness for public use. In addition to its appealing waterfront position away from residential land, it contained relatively dry ground that both faced the sun and drained towards the harbour – dissipating, it was thought, both airborne miasma and in-ground seepage. As initial preparation, the Council’s foreman of works Charles Savage oversaw burning, clearing, harrowing and fencing of the land in 1890. By-laws controlling a variety of matters, including those linked with health and aesthetic appeal were also established. These included rules governing the depth of graves; construction of coffins and covering of vaults ‘to prevent the escape of any noxious exhalation or evaporation in the Cemetery’; and protection of ‘Buildings, Monuments, Shrubberies, Plantations, and Enclosures’ from destruction or damage. Plots of different size and class were formulated, enabling social status among the living to be replicated at burial.
Reflecting desires for a planned landscape, competing designs for the layout of the cemetery were sought. In March 1891, a proposal by Auckland engineer John Francis Boylan (1850-1922) was accepted. Boylan had previously won a competition to design the discontinued cemetery at Narrow Neck, and other of his works on the North Shore had included creating parts of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company complex at nearby Birkenhead. His plan for O’Neill’s Point contained greater burial space relative to trees and roads than an alternative under consideration, suggesting that beautification was to be balanced by practical issues such as the longevity of cemetery use.
Burial was initially restricted to the eastern part of the cemetery. A rectilinear grid containing plots and walks was laid out to the east of a wide entrance avenue, enabling visitor perambulation as well as access for burial. The main avenue was evidently lined by native trees or shrubs from the outset, with plantings occurring elsewhere – possibly including pine trees near the property boundary to the northwest of the main avenue. Like Devonport’s earlier burial ground, the cemetery was divided into three sections according to religious affiliation – Anglican, Catholic and Unsectarian. It opened for interments in August 1891, at which time the Mt Victoria graveyard was closed.
Although largely intended for the inhabitants of Devonport, the new cemetery received residents from elsewhere on the North Shore and Auckland. Funeral corteges frequently arrived from a considerable distance in elaborate displays of mourning. One of the first burials, that of Thomas Sibbin who died of injuries sustained while playing rugby, ‘was attended by over 450 persons on foot, while several vehicles and horsemen were also in attendance’. Sibbin’s hearse had travelled from Auckland Hospital to Devonport via ferry, accompanied by 300 mourners, and after being met at the wharf by another large crowd was processed by road to the place of burial.
Other early burials included those of Thomas (1803-1892) and Mary Poynton (1812-1891), significant figures in the establishment and initial growth of Catholicism in New Zealand. Having settled in the Hokianga in 1828 to participate in the Pacific kauri trade, they became the first laity to officially represent the institutional church in this country, and after receiving Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier at his arrival in New Zealand in January 1838 the country’s first official Catholic Mass was celebrated in their house. Other early interments included two sailors from the French warships Dubourdieu and Duguay-Trouin, the latter described as the flagship of the French squadron in the Pacific; and in 1902 John Palmer (1837-1902), Archdeacon of South Melanesia who had worked extensively in the Pacific including the Banks Islands in northern Vanuatu and Norfolk Island, was similarly interred.
Cemetery facilities expanded in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Boylan pegged out further graves in 1895, and in 1897 a Gothic Revival mortuary chapel designed by notable Auckland architect and Devonport resident Edward Bartley, was erected west of the main avenue. After a fire damaged empty land to the west of the main avenue in 1900, the Council resolved to plough and plant this part of the property with oats. In 1903, it was surveyed for additional plots, creating a much enlarged burial area. Incorporating smaller plot sizes, its appearance varied from the pre-existing cemetery, although it retained a rectilinear grid layout with intervening paths.
From 1910, the rural situation of the cemetery reduced following construction of a new wharf at O’Neill’s Point. A regular ferry service between the wharf and central Auckland encouraged greater use of the cemetery from across the harbour as well as residential development. A tram service past the cemetery, connecting the ferry terminal and Takapuna, also facilitated access. During the First World War (1914-18), an influx of servicemen to the area additionally occurred.
Cemetery use during and after the First World War
During the global conflict and its immediate aftermath, the cemetery became the final resting place for many Pasifika, Māori and Pākehā servicemen. Most were based at Narrow Neck camp, established in 1915 for training members of the Tunnelling Company, Māori troops and reinforcements from what were then referred to as ‘British Islands in the Pacific.’ The latter recruits consisted mostly of servicemen from the Cook Islands and Niue, but also from Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Kiribati and Tuvalu (the latter at that time known by British authorities as the Gilbert and Ellice Islands). Considerable numbers stayed at the camp on their way to or returning from service on the overseas front. Initially, Māori and Pasifika troops served together as part of the 3rd Māori Contingent. Created beside an earlier establishment, Fort Takapuna, Narrow Neck camp became central to the contribution of indigenous peoples in New Zealand and the wider Pacific to the British imperial war effort.
Māori soldiers enlisted for a variety of reasons, which included obligations perceived as inherent in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. After heavy casualties among Māori forces in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, military authorities sought reinforcements from the Pacific Islands. Over 1000 men from the latter volunteered to enlist during the conflict. Of the more than 2500-strong Māori contingent and its reinforcements sent overseas, some 470 were of Pacific Island origin.
Pasifika servicemen volunteered at a time when New Zealand’s empire in the Pacific was reaching its height. The country’s imperial expansion had steadily increased during the early 1900s, with annexation of the Cook Islands and Niue in 1901, invasion of Samoa on Britain’s behalf at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and subsequent joint administration of Nauru with Australia and Britain. New Zealand’s greatest imperial reach occurred in 1926, when Britain transferred to it the government of Tokelau. The arrival of men at Narrow Neck from many Pacific locations presaged by several decades the large-scale migration of Pasifika peoples to New Zealand as a workforce following the Second World War (1939-45) – although both reflect New Zealand turning to its Pacific neighbours at times of need.
Pacific Island recruits were vulnerable to conditions and afflictions not encountered in their homelands. The first Pasifika serviceman buried in O’Neill’s Point Cemetery was Private Vilipate (1893-1915) from Niue – also the first from his country to die while enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) – who contracted pneumonia at Narrow Neck in December 1915. Others from the camp to be interred included Sergeant Beni Banaba (1890-1917), a member of an important chiefly family from Manihiri in the Cook Islands who had served in Egypt and Palestine in 1916-17. Several died during the influenza pandemic at the end of the war, including servicemen from Tuvalu, the Cook Islands and Fiji. Those from Tuvalu - Privates Mannao (or Manuao) Fati (1880-1918) and Tonuia (1898-1918) - and Fiji-born Private Laliqapata Ilitomasi (1891-1918) collectively formed a substantial proportion of the 25-strong Gilbert and Ellice Islands Contingent.
A number of Māori colleagues were similarly afflicted by the pandemic and laid to rest at the cemetery. Of the latter, four – Te Hapa Ihia (c.1893-1918), Tame Tahi (d.1918), Kiri Toto (c.1895-1918) and Rupena Hihi (c.1895-1918) – had been engaged in passive resistance by refusing to obey orders after being forcibly conscripted from among iwi in the Waikato-Maniapoto district in 1918. Their position reflected deeply-held views on objection to military service within parts of Māoridom, and especially among Kīngitanga iwi, whose lands had been invaded and confiscated by British colonial authorities just fifty years earlier. The campaign of resistance to military service was led by the Kīngitanga woman of mana, Te Puea Hērangi (1883-1952). Grief felt by the families and people of those who died of influenza while engaged in resistance was compounded by their burial at O’Neill’s Point rather than being returned to traditional lands for interment.
Although a global phenomenon, the influenza pandemic disproportionately affected indigenous peoples in the Pacific including Islanders and Māori. Over a tenth of the 107 Pacific Island servicemen in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died from disease or action are buried at O’Neill’s Point.
A number of Pākehā servicemen were similarly interred. Influenza victims included a nurse, Isabelle Maude (or Maud) Manning (1870-1918), who had volunteered to look after the particularly large number of cases among Pasifika and Māori troops at Narrow Neck camp. Some 66 people, including civilians, were buried at the cemetery in November 1918 – when the pandemic was at its height. No affliction in New Zealand history has killed so many people in so short a time. At this time, military camps were the most dangerous places to reside.
From at least 1915, the country’s first Inspector of Old Soldiers’ Graves – Edith Statham (1853-1951) – formed an interest in the cemetery, campaigning for the care of its military burials. Statham had previously been secretary of the graves committee of the Victoria League, an organisation dedicated to promoting closer ties within the British Commonwealth. For more than two decades from April 1921, the League arranged annual ANZAC Day events at the site to remember those who had served and died. Services were also held on Armistice Day. By 1923, formal military headstones were erected, and the Takapuna Women’s Progressive League campaigned for tidying up the entire cemetery. By the 1930s, the Auckland Returned Soldiers’ Association were tending soldiers’ graves before each ANZAC and Armistice Day commemoration.
Those buried at O’Neil’s Point Cemetery after the war included Walter Gudgeon (1841-1920), the first New Zealand governor of the Cook Islands who oversaw annexation of the islands with Governor-General Ranfurley in 1901 and promoted British imperial ideology. In 1924, the cemetery saw the burial of Major Henry Peacock (1871-1924), who had commanded the first contingent of 500 Māori soldiers to leave New Zealand in the war and who had been responsible as camp commandant for training both Māori and Pasifika forces. In 1929, the unveiling of a monument on his grave was attended by approximately 300 Māori representing ‘every hapu from North Cape to the Bluff’. Graveside orators included Tuiti Makitanara, Member of Parliament for the Southern Māori District, who spoke on behalf of South Island iwi. Other interments connected with the Māori and Pacific Island contingents included that of Wesleyan missionary, William Gittos (1829-1916), who had given religious services to recruits before his death in 1916.
Many individuals who lived locally were also interred during this period. These included prolific Auckland architect Edward Bartley (1839-1919), who had designed numerous important structures in the region as well as the cemetery’s mortuary chapel; surveyor Robert Eyre (d.1920), reported to have laid out the township of Tauranga, been first government surveyor on the Thames goldfields and created the Taranaki confiscation lines; and Charles Burrell Stone (1841-1920), reputedly the first male Pākehā born in Auckland and owner of the city’s largest shipping business.
Robert, Archibald and John Logan, who founded the renowned boatbuilding business of Logan Brothers – which exported yachts to Australia, South Africa and the Pacific region from 1898 – were likewise interred. Archibald Logan (1865-1940) has been considered ‘the pre-eminent yacht designer in the southern hemisphere’ in the early twentieth century and ‘the outstanding figure in New Zealand yachting’ at this time. The Logans additionally produced whaling boats and other craft for use in Samoa, Tonga and other Pacific Islands, as well as vessels for the Northern Steamship Company and other shipping firms.
George Bourne (1875-1924), a notable press photographer who took the first aerial photograph in New Zealand was also laid to rest there as was newspaper magnate Sir Henry Brett (1843-1927). In 1926, the cemetery formed the final resting place for Lieutenant Wāta Te Wahahuia (or Walter Callaway) (1874-1926) of Ngāi Te Rangi, who is credited with being the first Māori soldier to serve in the South African War (1899-1902), and who composed a haka that became the battle cry for all New Zealand contingents: ‘Kia kaha nu Tereni, Wha whai maea mo to Kuini to Kianga, Ake Ake Ake’ (‘Be strong New Zealand, Fight bravely for your Queen, for your country, Ever! Ever! Ever!’).
By the early 1930s, the cemetery was becoming full. Proposals to extend the facility, and later to build a crematorium, were opposed by the Takapuna authorities – in whose jurisdiction the surrounding land lay. Ongoing acts of public remembrance included Apostolic Delegate J. Panico and Bishop James Liston laying a wreath at the grave of Thomas and Mary Poynton in 1938 – which formed part of New Zealand Catholic Centenary commemorations. Later military interments encompassed local airmen who died in New Zealand during the Second World War. In 1951 Edith Statham, who had campaigned for the upkeep of military graves at O’Neill’s Point several decades earlier, was buried in the cemetery.
The dwindling number of burial plots probably contributed to the mortuary chapel being removed before 1959. In 1970, the cemetery was calculated to contain over 5400 burials, with approximately half being from Devonport, a quarter from Takapuna and the remainder from elsewhere. Two years later, ownership was transferred to the City of Takapuna. In 1974, the 36.4 hectare (90 acre) North Shore Memorial Park, incorporating a crematorium, opened near Greenhithe to cater for all North Shore suburbs – which had expanded significantly after the Harbour Bridge opened in 1959.
The cemetery subsequently received occasional burials, but predominantly formed a place of remembrance. Reflecting its ongoing value to the community, a lych-gate was added to the main entrance in 1983. Military graves have been maintained by the New Zealand Government on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and the cemetery continues to be used for public commemoration of ANZAC Day. Throughout its existence, civic upkeep of the cemetery has been vigorously encouraged by the local community, reflecting its importance as an ongoing repository of memory and identity.
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery is situated in Bayswater, on Auckland’s North Shore. Bayswater is a predominantly residential suburb occupying a peninsula between Devonport and Takapuna, which extends into the inner Waitematā Harbour. The suburb largely consists of single-storey housing dating from the early twentieth century onwards. Its main throughfare, Bayswater Avenue, runs the full length of the peninsula between Lake Road and a ferry terminal at the western end of O’Neill’s Point. The latter directly connects the suburb with central Auckland, a regular transport route in existence since at least the early 1900s.
The cemetery occupies a large piece of land between Bayswater Avenue and the Waitematā Harbour on the northern side of the peninsula. Several archaeological midden have been recorded to the north of the cemetery, adjoining the foreshore. Immediately to the east of the site is a large area of mid-twentieth century state housing. To the west is a public path and cycleway connecting the peninsula with Belmont via a long bridge across the intervening mudflats. To the south is Bayswater Park and the former St Luke’s Catholic Church building, the latter erected in 1960. Formally recognised built heritage in the area includes St Michael and All Angels Church (Anglican), erected in 1910 a short distance to the east on Bayswater Avenue; Takapuna Boating Club and saltwater swimming pool, incorporating an earlier tannery relocated to the current site in 1923; the Bayswater wharf, causeway and sea wall; a building on Rosyth Avenue ; and residences at Birkley Road, Beresford Street, Norwood Road and 21 Bayswater Avenue.
The cemetery occupies mostly elevated ground overlooking Oneoneroa (Shoal Bay). It is L-shape in plan, with a north-south avenue separating the oldest-established part of the cemetery on the east side, and a slightly more recent part to the west. The former is more uniformly elevated and flat, and projects into the bay at its north end. The western part of the cemetery occupies gently sloping ground towards the bay.
The main access avenue is approached from Bayswater Avenue via a modern lych-gate of traditional design. A well-recognised landmark in the local area, this feature incorporates raised stone or stone-clad footings, and a timber superstructure with a gabled roof. Internally, this contains built-in seating on both sides. To the east and west of the lych-gate, the south boundary of the cemetery consists of a modern fence and plantings. The west cemetery boundary is defined by a row of recent chestnut trees. The east boundary is marked by a narrow ditch, at the south end of which are several mature trees, possibly poplars planted prior to 1959.
The broad, main avenue is lined with trees of different type: cabbage trees that may pre-date 1930; mature pōhutukawa that may have been planted at a similar or slightly later time; and also mature oak, pūriri and others. To the north of the avenue, which terminates at small turning circle, is an area of bush that includes several tall pine trees, possibly a remnant of early planting associated with the northern cemetery boundary. Other plantings in this area and at the north end of the eastern part of the cemetery are evidently of more recent date.
Eastern part of cemetery
The eastern part of the site is divided into a regular grid, including narrow, north-south grass paths extending the full length of the cemetery. Initially laid out in 1891, it incorporates areas set aside for different denominations. The northern part, picturesquely overlooking Oneoneroa, forms the Catholic section. This contains the burial plot and monument of the cemetery’s designer, John Boylan, as well as the well-maintained gravestones of Thomas and Mary Poynton. Among the more elaborate monuments is a winged angel on a draped pedestal, commemorating Maria Kelly, who died in 1913. In 1893, Kelly had been a signatory of a national petition submitted to Parliament calling for women’s suffrage – a right achieved later the same year.
The remaining area to the east of the avenue contains the original Church of England and Unsectarian sections. These retain a very early surviving timber headboard dedicated to Frederick Arthur Brett, the infant son of Arthur and Eva Brett, who died in 1892. They also encompass the uncommon, partial remains of two wooden grave enclosures. The largest of these contains full-size surviving corner posts, rails and pickets, and surrounds the gravestone of Robert Wilson, a shipbuilder and lighthouse keeper who also died in 1892. Two sides of a rare, very small picket enclosure at the foot of the grave of a Methodist Minister, Percy Norwood Knight, who died in 1944, may be that of an infant. A large enclosure with timber posts and horizontal metal tubular rails surrounds the graves and monument of William and Marianne Gittos, notable Wesleyan missionaries who respectively died in 1916 and 1908.
Numerous ornate iron railing surrounds survive. One, erected around the Taine family plot in the late 1890s or early 1900s, bears the manufacturer’s mark ‘Colling’. Commemorated by a draped pedestal monument, Leocadia Taine (?1820-1902) was the adopted daughter Edward Gibbon Wakefield – the latter an important figure in international colonial history who had ‘masterminded the large-scale British settlement of New Zealand’ and also played a significant role in the settlement of South Australia and Canada through the ‘Wakefield system’ of colonisation.
Other notable monuments include that to John Palmer (1837-1902), Archdeacon of South Melanesia, which was erected by the clergy and teachers of the Melanesian Mission, for whom he had been a missionary for 40 years. This includes an inscription in the language of Mota in the Banks Islands (north Vanuatu), where Palmer had established an early Anglican mission station. Between the 1860s and 1931, Mota was the teaching language of the Melanesian Mission. A monument to the internationally renowned boatbuilding Logan family comprises a broken column. A stone grave marker to Joseph Dinsdale (1845-1898), Devonport town clerk, was erected by his work colleagues. Dinsdale’s funeral service in the cemetery is reported to have been the first in Auckland carried out by the Theosophical Society.
Another monument commemorates a young woman, Essie Grattan, who died in 1894. At her funeral – occurring the year after women gained the right to vote – Grattan’s coffin was unusually carried by six of her female friends prior to transportation by hearse to the cemetery. A nearby monument to Natalina Consiglia Trayes (née McCallum), who died in 1924, incorporates a large, ceramic likeness of the concert soprano – which can be seen as reflecting the growing status of women in early twentieth-century New Zealand society.
Western part of cemetery
The cemetery to the west of the main avenue occupies uneven ground, sloping down from both Bayswater Avenue and the main access avenue towards Oneoneroa. Burial plots are densely laid out in a rectilinear grid. No marked burials exist in the lowest-lying, northern part nearest the bay. There are a larger number of low monuments of kerbed type, with concrete a more common construction material than in the eastern part of the cemetery. The site of a former mortuary church is distinguishable as a small area of flat ground, terraced on the north side and infilled with later burials and monuments. This is located a short distance to the west of the main access avenue.
Some of the more prominent monuments are located between the avenue and church site. They include memorials to the architect Edward Bartley, who had designed the chapel; founder of the Devonport Steam Ferry Company and president of the New Zealand Coal Mine Owners’ Association, Ewen William Alison (1852-1945), and his family; newspaperman and publisher Sir Henry Brett; and a Levuka sawmiller and ‘general trader among the islands’, Andrew Meaney (1862-1917). A simpler gravestone to Charles Savage, who oversaw construction of the cemetery, also lies near the church site.
Many other of the earlier monuments in this part of the cemetery, dating to the early 1900s, are similarly located on the higher ground adjoining Bayswater Avenue. These include memorials to Walter Edward Gudgeon, a controversial figure who was New Zealand’s first governor of the Cook Islands – and who had previously been involved in the arrest of Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi at Parihaka in 1881, as well as being a founder of the Polynesian Society in 1892; and very early Auckland citizen and wealthy businessman Charles Burrell Stone. The former memorial includes the epigram ‘He Mata Mahora no te Ara Whanui a Tane’ (‘An open face on the broad path of Tane’), a saying appropriated for monumental European inscription within early twentieth-century ethnographic circles, offering the opinion that an esteemed person had passed away. C.B. Stone’s grave was repaired by descendants as part of a family reunion in 1991 on the 150th anniversary of his birth – an event marked by a plaque.
A number of military graves from the First World War lie midway down the slope. These belong to soldiers from several Pacific Island nations, as well as Māori and Pākehā servicemen. One group, towards the west side of the area, contains the burials of several individuals who died during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Military graves are indicated both by headstones of standard design, and more individualised markers in some cases erected by colleagues of those who had died. Among the latter are the headstones of Sergeant Beni Banaba (1890-1917) of the 2nd Rarotongan Contingent and grandson of Iete, Whakaheo Ariki of the island of Manihiki – which contains the Cook Island Māori dedication ‘E Akamaara Anga Aroa Teia No’ – and Private Evarama Vonoyauyau (c.1896-1919) of the Fijian Labour Corps, who died of wounds received overseas. Of those who succumbed to influenza, the monument to Lance Corporal Alexander Saunders (c.1896-1918) of the 3rd Fiji Contingent is especially distinctive. That of another influenza victim, Private Ingatu Ngaipu (d.1918) of the 4th Rarotongan Contingent contains a crossed rifle motif at the top of the stone.
The grave markers of standard design to Pacific Island servicemen include those to Private Vilipate (1893-1915) of Niue; Privates Mannao (or Manuao) Fati (1880-1918) and Tonuia (1898-1918) of Tuvalu; Fiji-born Private Laliqapata Ilitomasi (1891-1918); and several to Cook Island colleagues: Corporal Manuel Anthony (1895-1917) and Privates Mataputa a Noo, (1897-1916), Pirangi (1893-1916), Teaumarae Teiva (1896-1916), Pai Teipo (1899-1919) and Peau Wycliffe (1899-1919).
Burials of Māori servicemen are interspersed with those of their Pacific Island colleagues and have been provided with military headstones, including those of Tuti Chase (d.1918), Rupena Hihi (or Rupene, or Reupena Hihi) (c.1895-1918), Te Hapa Ihia (or Te Apa, or Te Apa Ihaia) (c.1893-1918), Eria Kere (or Harry Kelly) (1895-1948), John Mansell Martin (1892-1918), Dennis Murphy (c.1887-1918), Tiki Oneroa (1888-1918), Tame Tahi (d.1918), Pitiroi Tehiwi (or Te Hiwi Pitiroi) (c.1894-1918) and Kiri Toto (or Kikiri) (c.1895-1918). Four of these individuals (Te Hapa Ihia, Tame Tahi, Kiri Toto and Rupena Hihi) had been involved in passive resistance to military conscription and died of influenza at Narrow Neck camp. Other Māori Contingent markers include that of Nicholas Maunsell (c.1889-1918).
Close to these memorials is the grave of Major Henry Peacock (1871-1924), who had led the First Māori Contingent and was commandant of Narrow Neck camp. His place of rest is marked by a Celtic cross. Numerous other military graves to Pākehā servicemen survive, including that of Sydney Davis (d.1938), father of Sir Thomas Davis who was prime minister of the Cook Islands in 1978-83 and 1983-87. A total of 54 individuals are recorded by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. An important marker linked with previous international conflicts in which New Zealand servicemen were involved is that of Wāta Te Wahahuia (or Walter Callaway) (1874-1926) of Ngāi Te Rangi, who is credited with being the first Māori soldier to serve in the South African War (1899-1902). Another significant monument is that marking the burial place of Edith Mary Statham (1853-1951), a nationally important figure in the history of war grave conservation. Statham’s marker was erected by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in 2004.
Other notable monuments include what appears to be a home-made marker to Charles Stables (d.1938), created by setting lead lettering in concrete – and possibly undertaken by his wife and daughter, both named Maude. A nearby area without markers is understood to contain the burials of stillborn children.
There are few trees, but occasional bushes on graves include those of rosemary. In the 1930s, rosemary sprigs were placed on the graves of war dead in Auckland. Throughout both the west and east parts of the cemetery, grave markers bear the name of monumental masons who installed them. These include some of the more prolific masons operating in the Auckland region during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including John Bouskill, W. Parkinson, Peter McNab and Walter Mason.
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery forms one of several large burial grounds in Auckland that were created following the 1882 Cemeteries Act. Other surviving examples include Waikumete Cemetery (1886) – which succeeded the early colonial facilities at Symonds Street Cemetery (1841; List No. 7753, Category 1 historic place); Pūrewa Cemetery at Meadowbank (1889); and Waikaraka Cemetery at Onehunga (1890). O’Neill’s Point Cemetery forms a major second-generation, colonial burial ground on Auckland’s North Shore. Large second-generation cemeteries elsewhere in New Zealand include early examples at Southern Cemetery, Dunedin (1858; List No.7657, Category 1 historic place); Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson (1861); and Te Henui, New Plymouth (1861). The slightly later Northern Cemetery, Dunedin (List No.7658, Category 1 historic place), was established in 1872.
Pacific Island military service in the First World War
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery is of special significance for the extent to which it demonstrates the contribution and sacrifice of Pacific Island communities through involvement in military service in the First World War. It forms the main place of burial for serving Pasifika First World War soldiers in New Zealand, and the main place of rest anywhere in the world for serving soldiers of this conflict from the Cook Islands. More than a tenth of all Pacific Island soldiers in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died of disease or in action while serving are buried at O’Neill’s Point. The cemetery is particularly notable for incorporating the graves and monuments of servicemen from many Pacific nations, including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu and Niue, as well as those of New Zealand Māori and Pākehā soldiers. Other places of rest for serving Pasifika soldiers in New Zealand include Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland, which contains a collectively smaller number of graves encompassing individuals from Niue, the Cook Islands and Tonga; and Featherston Cemetery in the Wairarapa, where at least one soldier each from the Cook Islands and Tonga are buried. Additional servicemen from Niue and the Cook Islands who were buried at sea are remembered on the Memorial Arch at Karori Cemetery, Wellington. A Samoan-born soldier who died in Belgium, W. T. Doughty, is commemorated by a bell commissioned by his mother, which hangs in the National War Memorial’s Carrillon (List No.1410, Category 1 historic place).
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery is especially evocative of Pacific Island involvement in the First World War. Other places in New Zealand with strong connections to Pacific Island military service at this time include the main base for training Pasifika troops at Narrow Neck in Devonport, which immediately adjoined Fort Takapuna (1886; List No.86, Category 1 historic place), although no structures created for this training camp are believed to remain. Elements of the First World War training and enlistment facilities at Trentham are similarly rare but include an early cinema or church (List No.4150, Category 2 historic place). A temporary billet for Pasifika troops at Petone Drill Hall survives, as does Avondale racecourse – where recruits temporarily trained before facilities at Narrow Neck were prepared. The walls of a sea pool used by convalescing Pacific Island soldiers at Torpedo Bay, Devonport, likewise remain.
The connections of O’Neill’s Point Cemetery with Pacific Island military service is reinforced by the many contemporary graves and monuments of Māori colleagues, with whom the Pasifika soldiers trained and in many instances served. It also contains the grave of Henry Peacock, who led the first Māori contingent and oversaw the training of both Pasifika and Māori forces at Narrow Neck camp. The cemetery can be considered additionally notable for incorporating the final resting places of soldiers, both Pasifika and Māori, who died during the 1918-19 influenza epidemic – a global event that disproportionately affected indigenous peoples in the Pacific and formed a tragic final chapter of the First World War. A number of Pākehā servicemen, nurse Isabella Maude Manning and local community members similarly lie in the cemetery after succumbing to this affliction, demonstrating its wide-reaching effects. The place is connected with diverse attitudes to military service during the First World War, containing the interments of several individuals connected with opposition by Waikato iwi to involvement in the conflict.
Other places on the shores of the Waitematā Harbour that demonstrate close connections between New Zealand and the wider Pacific include the Melanesian Mission at Kohimarama (1859; List No.111, Category 1 historic place), where Melanesian students were given religious and other instruction; Chelsea Sugar Refinery and Estate (1883-4; List No.7792, Category 1 historic place), which processed raw cane sugar predominantly from Fiji; and Queen’s Wharf (1907-13; List No.9500, Category 1 historic place), from where international maritime trade across the Pacific and elsewhere was centred. The Waitematā Harbour is also closely associated with the much earlier arrival of waka from Hawaiiki.
Original construction – clearance, burial plots, paths and plantings
Addition – Further plots laid out
Addition- Mortuary chapel
Addition – Remaining plots laid out
Modification – Paths narrowed to accommodate additional plots
Demolished - prior building
Demolition – Mortuary chapel
Addition – Lych-gate
Stone, timber, iron, plastered brick, concrete - Grave markers, monuments and enclosures
Public NZAA Number
15th June 2022
Report Written By
10 Jun 1890, p.2; 18 Dec 1890, p.2; 17 Mar 1891, p.2; 27 Jul 1891, p.2.
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Gittos, M. B., 'Gittos, Marianne', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2g12/gittos-marianne
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
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Green, David, 'Gudgeon, Walter Edward', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2g23/gudgeon-walter-edward
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New Zealand Herald
New Zealand Herald, 28 Apr 1891, p.6; 7 Jul 1891, p.3.
O’Neill’s Point Cemetery, Bayswater
Judge, Charlotte, ‘O’Neill’s Point Cemetery, Bayswater: A Brief Historical Study of Selected Graves’, [Auckland], Jun 2015.
Qaravi Na’i Tavi, They did their Duty: Soldiers from Fiji in the Great War
Liava’a, Christine, Qaravi Na’i Tavi, They did their Duty: Soldiers from Fiji in the Great War, Auckland, 2009.
Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific
Sean Mallon, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Damon Salesa (eds.), Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific, Wellington, 2012, pp.139-158.
Māhina-Tuai, Kolokesa, ‘FIA (Forgotten in Action): Pacific Islanders in the New Zealand Armed Forces’, in Sean Mallon, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai and Damon Salesa (eds.), Tangata o le Moana: New Zealand and the People of the Pacific, Wellington, 2012, pp.139-158.
Niue and the Great War
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