Historical Significance or Value
First World War Memorial has historic significance because it represents the importance that local communities around the country placed on acknowledging their First (and later Second) World War losses in a public way. It also has historic value as one of the earliest war memorials erected in New Zealand to commemorate the internationally significant First World War. The monument was created as part of a national and international pattern of commemoration of those events and was the first statue memorial erected to commemorate that war in New Zealand after the armistice. It is an unusual example of a statue memorial being a sculpture of a monarch rather than of a soldier. The memorial demonstrates the impact of the First World War on small communities around New Zealand with the names of the thirteen men who died recorded on the monument.
The place also demonstrates the historic importance of Matakana as a gathering and connecting point for the surrounding area during the early twentieth century when water transport was the main way to travel and receive news from outside the settlement.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
First World War Memorial has aesthetic significance as a visually prominent landmark on the main road into Matakana. Despite being relocated in the early twenty-first century, the setting of the monument in a clear grassed area facing the main road into the settlement reflects the importance of the memorial as a place of commemoration in the community.
Social Significance or Value
First World War Memorial has social significance as a place of congregation and commemoration for the Matakana community. The place has enduring community esteem having been created by the local community in 1919 and remaining today a tangible reminder of the events of the First World War for descendants of those involved in the conflict and the impact it had on small communities. Reflecting the resurgence of interest in war memorials and commemoration, local residents hold regular ANZAC Day services at the memorial. The community has also demonstrated their ongoing appreciation of the place in their opposition to its relocation and the establishment of an open space around the monument after it was moved which is now used for those ANZAC Day services.
This place was assessed against the Section 66(3) criteria and found to qualify under criteria a, b, e, f and h. The assessment concludes that this place should be listed as a Category 2 historic place.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
War memorials, such as First World War Memorial, are important landmarks in towns across New Zealand and their widespread creation by individual communities represents the significant impact that war had on these communities and on the nation in the twentieth century. These memorials became significant public spaces in most towns, including Matakana, where commemorations for those who fell and the service of returned personnel could take place. The monument, which was erected in 1919, is an early example of these memorials and commemorative spaces and reflects the local creation and decision making regarding local war memorials.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The place has significance for its association with the First World War and the contribution of Matakana and the surrounding district to that effort. The memorial commemorates the loss of life in a number of different campaigns during the war including at Gallipoli and other major war fronts.
The memorial has significance as a graphic representation of the imperial sentiments of First World War memorials which reflected the strong connection between New Zealand and the British Empire.
The place also has some significance for its association with William Henry Feldon, a New Zealand sculptor who was one of a small number who created First World War memorials in New Zealand after serving in the army. It is also associated with King George V, the current reigning monarch during the war and when the monument was created. It is the first statue in the King’s likeness in New Zealand and an internationally unusual example of the King being depicted in military uniform.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The First World War Memorial is important to the Matakana community as a local land mark and place where commemorative services are held on ANZAC Day. Although commissioned by the community, local esteem for the memorial diminished over the years until interest was renewed in 2006 at which time some members of the community objected to its relocation. Since it was moved, the memorial has been restored as part of the national commemorations of the centenary of the First World War. The memorial has been used frequently by the local community in recent years reflecting the national resurgence of interest in war memorials and observance of ANZAC Day.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
Located in a prominent public location on the main road into Matakana enables easy access to the site with the memorial providing contemporary visitors the chance to reflect on the place and impact of the war on the local community.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The First World War Memorial has commemorative value as a place which was created to remember the men who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918 and continues to fulfil this role into the present through regularly held ANZAC Day services. Following the relocation of the memorial the commemorative function of the place has been reinforced with the creation of a court of honour and the use of the surrounding open space by the community for services. It also commemorates King George V as the military leader of New Zealand troops during the conflict and thus New Zealand’s place in the British Empire.
Summary of Significance or Values
First World War Memorial is a significant place for the extent to which it reflects the impacts of the First World War on small communities in New Zealand and demonstrates how communities recognised and commemorated the losses of the war. It has significance as a work by William Henry Feldon, a New Zealand sculptor, who was one of a small number who created memorials in New Zealand. The place is of importance to the Matakana community as a landmark that is used regularly for commemoration.
Matakana forms part of a coastal land area which was settled and conquered a number of times over the centuries and prior to the arrival of Europeans by different iwi groups including Ngāi Tāhuhu, Ngāti Raupo, Ngāti Manuhiri, Ngāti Rongo, Te Kawerau ā Maki and the Marutūahu confederation and has a complex history. The Matakana River was named after the pā located at the river mouth and means glowering eyes. The town lies within the Mahurangi Purchase, a 100,000 acre coastal strip between Auckland and Te Arai, obtained by the Crown in April 1841. The purchase deed was signed by leaders of Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Whanaunga, who had previously obtained the land by conquest.
Although some European settlers moved to area around Matakana River during the 1840s to take up opportunities for timber felling and milling, formal European settlement beside the river at Matakana and Sandspit, then known as Upper and Lower Matakana respectively, began in the early 1850s. John Long Heydin, who established the first timber mill at Matakana, purchased the Crown Grant for the Allotment 5 Parish of Matakana, which included the land the memorial was later erected on, in 1851 and crown land auctions of farms were held in 1853. The river formed an essential part of life for the early settlers as their link to Auckland for communication, travel and transport of goods such as furniture, building supplies and food into the settlement and export of produce such as firewood, timber and stock to the Auckland market. Matakana was one of a number of settlements established near water access in the area. Other settlements included Warkworth beside the Mahurangi River in 1854, and Leigh and Big Omaha from 1858 east of Matakana along the coast.
Over the following decades farming became established in the surrounding district as well as flax and timber mills. Matakana was well-located to serve as river access for these settlers as it was relatively inland compared to some other settlements. A wooden wharf was constructed at Matakana in 1879 and tracks to Matakana, and specifically the wharf, became formalised as roads through the late 1870s and 1880s. A junction formed at the south east corner of Allotment 5 where the roads east to Whangateau and Leigh, west to Warkworth and Sandspit, and north to Whangaripo met the road to the wharf. The wharf was a busy port with regular inward and outward vessels that supplied the community’s needs. Shops were soon opened in close proximity to the wharf and by 1914 a small town centre had developed near the junction with multiple shops, a saddler/bootmaker, a library, two churches, a public hall, a school, a post office, a hotel, a boarding house and a dairy factory.
Matakana in the First World War
With the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918), the Matakana community enthusiastically joined the rest of the country in supporting the war effort. The community raised money to donate to the effort through concerts and patriotic committees and 36 men from Matakana and the surrounding district served in the New Zealand armed forces. The wharf continued to be an important location for the community during these years as with boats still being the primary method of transport until around 1930, it was the departure point for the enlisted men and the place where news of the war, including reports of deaths of the local soldiers were received by those at home. Of the men who enlisted to serve from Matakana, thirteen died overseas and in New Zealand while in service.
Creation of Matakana War Memorial
To commemorate those deaths, the Matakana community came together again following the war to commission and raise funds for a war memorial. The use of war memorials to commemorate ordinary soldiers’ deaths began in Britain and Europe following the huge loss of life in the Crimean War before which most memorials only recognised higher classes, particularly the deaths of nobility. Settlers had brought the practice with them and early war memorials in New Zealand were erected in the first decades of the twentieth century to commemorate the New Zealand Wars and the South African War. The commission for Matakana’s war memorial was given to William Henry Feldon, a local sculptor who, after serving as a Captain during the war, actively sought commissions to create war memorials for communities around New Zealand. Based in Auckland, Feldon was one of only a small number of New Zealand based sculptors given war memorial commissions as most of the war memorials erected around the country, especially statue memorials, were purchased from Europe. This was due both to the cost of commissioning a sculpture and because it was often believed that only European artists had the talent to create sculptures that would convey the high ideals required.
Feldon sculpted the memorial for Matakana using Ōamaru stone, a soft sandstone from the South Island of New Zealand. A statue of King George V stood atop a block with ‘MATAKANA’ inscribed on the front which was in turn on top of a large plinth. As the commander of the war effort, King George was depicted wearing the military uniform dress of a Field Marshall complete with a cocked bicorn hat, tunic, medals, cloak, and boots. The King was holding a scroll, possibly representing the King’s 7 November 1919 proclamation of two minutes of silence commemorating those lives lost in the conflict, in his right hand and his sheathed sword in his left. Carved into the plinth was an inscription which read ‘This Monument Was Erected By Public Subscription As A Thanksgiving To Almighty God For Peace And Victory And In The Memory Of The Men Of This District Who Fell In The Great War 1914-1919’. The themes of peace and victory were prominent ideas used in First World War memorials of the period across the country. Like many contemporary memorials, the Matakana statue graphically represented imperial sentiments and a desire to be recognised as part of the British Empire reflecting the strong connection between New Zealand and Britain in the early twentieth century.
Below the inscription the names of the men who died were listed in order of their rank. The named men came from Matakana, Sandspit, Whangateau and Whangaripo. These men had died in a number of different conflicts including Gallipoli, Ypres, Palestine and the Somme, as well as men who had died from illnesses including measles in New Zealand and England. One of the names was added in 1921 following the soldier’s death in Auckland hospital from tuberculosis contracted while serving overseas. Like many others towns around New Zealand, the Matakana community chose to only include the names of the dead as the memorials were partly conceived ‘as surrogate tombstones that should pay primary tribute to the dead’ unlike in Australia where many memorials listed all the names of those who served.
The memorial was completed and erected in December 1919 on a small section of Allotment 5, land which the Campbell family had owned since 1901, at the south east corner of the wharf junction. Susan Campbell, who was described in her obituary as the Mother of Matakana, gave her permission for the monument to be placed on the family’s land overlooking the township and the wharf. Although news reports indicate that the Prime Minister was planned to unveil the memorial in January 1920, its official unveiling was held on 23 April 1920 by the Honourable Joseph Gordon Coates, Minister for Defence and Public Works. The First World War memorial was the tenth unveiled nationally and the first statue memorial erected to commemorate the conflict after the armistice. The event was well attended by the community and over the following years the memorial was the site of local ANZAC Day and Armistice Day commemorations for many years.
Use of the place after erection of monument
The wharf junction continued to be an important centre for Matakana in the years after the erection of the First World War Memorial. In 1929 the land around the memorial was leased to Thomas (Jack) Walden who built a garage on the land beside the monument and operated a car dealer from that location. When the garage burnt down in 1936, a new garage and dealership was built on the opposite side of Matakana Road while some smaller structures remained around the monument. The wharf was significantly damaged in 1938 in a major flood and was largely rebuilt on a concrete base. As part of the centenary celebrations planning, the council considered acquiring that portion of the Campbells land to create a public reserve with swimming baths and included the memorial and the wharf but the plans were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War and didn’t proceed. Unlike in some communities, no additions were made to the First World War Memorial to commemorate the lives lost between 1939 and 1945. This possibly reflects a decrease in the prominence of the statue in the township over time as well as the reduced isolation of Matakana associated with car transport. The Campbell family cleared the land around the memorial in the 1950s and gifted the land on which the memorial stands to the Council in 1955 after which it became part of the Matakana Wharf Reserve.
Maintenance of the statue has been inconsistent over the years. It became covered in mould and lichen with environmental damage causing erosion of the soft stone which was exacerbated by the plane of the stone not being ‘laid on the same plane as it was found in the ground’. The monument was also damaged by vandalism several times including a red paint bomb attack and in the late 1940s an attempt to topple the statue with a rope pulled by a car resulted in the decapitation of the statue. The head was soon reattached but on later occasions was again removed but recovered.
Relocation and restoration
By the early 2000s the monument was sometimes referred to as King George V statue, reflecting the reduced recognition of the monument’s war memorial connections. With an increasing population at Matakana, traffic was causing problems at the township and the council decided to improve the road by building a roundabout at the wharf junction. This necessitated the relocation of the statue and, despite some local opposition, the memorial was moved within the Wharf Reserve 50m south of its original location in 2006. A public toilet block, which had first been suggested in 2002, was subsequently erected beside the monument’s original location. The council created a new court of honour around the monument which was now sited in an open clearing fronting Matakana Road with an oblique view of the roundabout. The head of the statue was removed again in 2006 and in 2012 at which time it was lost. In 2013-2014, as part of the nationwide commemorations of the start of the First World, funding was granted by the Council and government for the creation of a new head for the statue and general maintenance of the statue. Ana Machado, a conservator, restored the statue and Steven Woodward sculpted a new head with an Admiral of the Fleet hat which was installed in April 2014. A bronze plaque with the original inscription was added and a second plaque to commemorate the Second World War was added on the south side. A rededication service with a large turnout was held after the new head was attached. In subsequent years interest in the memorial has increased and ANZAC services have been held regularly. The resurgence of interest and appreciation of the monument as a war memorial is part of a nationwide pattern beginning in the 1990s and continuing through the centenary of the First World War.
First World War Memorial is located at the eastern side of the Matakana township. The monument lies within the Matakana Wharf Reserve which encompasses the land north from the monument to the corner where the statue was formerly located and the public toilets have been constructed, and then east down the hill to the river where the 1940s concrete and timber wharf is located.
To the northwest of the First World War Memorial is the commercial centre of the township which incorporates a number of historic buildings including St Leonards Church (Anglican) (List No. 7130, Category 2 historic place), Matakana House, and the Matakana Dairy Factory (Former).
The site incorporates the monument, comprised of the statue of King George V on top of a large plinth, within a court of honour, and the surrounding open space where public gathering occurs during ANZAC commemorations, and also extends part way into the native trees on the downhill slope to the east.
The central part of the site is flat with a small slope up to the road edge on the west boundary and the downhill slope at the east boundary which continues to Matakana River. A picnic table decorated with a large painted ANZAC poppy is located in the south eastern part of the open space. The site fronts the main road into Matakana from the west and is a prominently visible landmark.
The court of honour is a paved octagon around the monument partly enclosed by a low concrete post and chain fence with a rosemary hedge in a raised garden bed. Rosemary is associated with memory and remembrance and sprigs of the herb have been traditionally worn for ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. Information cards on stakes are set at regular intervals in the garden bed with details of each of the men named on the memorial. Around the edge and base of the fence are a large number of stones painted with poppies and other symbols of war remembrance.
The monument is entirely carved from Ōamaru Stone. The relatively streamlined design has a pared classical style which references the developing modern, art deco aesthetic with little ornamentation or other decorative features. The ashlar masonry plinth has a square chamfered base below a tapered shaft with a cavetto moulded capital. The original base was heightened with an additional stone piece when the monument was relocated. The commemorative inscription is engraved into the western face of the shaft and has been filled with mortar and partly covered with a brass plaque bearing a copy of the original inscription with the names of the men below. The inscription reads: This Monument Was Erected By Public Subscription As A Thanksgiving To Almighty God For Peace And Victory And In The Memory Of The Men Of This District Who Fell In The Great War 1914-1918. A second brass plaque is located on the southern face with an inscription which commemorates the men who died while serving in the Second World War and their names. This inscription reads: In Memory Of The Men Of This District Who Fell In World War II 1939-1945. The northern and eastern faces are plain.
The King George V statue atop the plinth stands on a square base with Matakana carved into the east face and ‘W.H FELDON, SCULPT, AUCKLAND’ engraved on the north face. The torso of the sculpture is wearing a field marshal dress uniform, a coat, and holding a scroll in the right hand, representing the 7 November 1919 proclamation for two minutes of silence, and a sword in the left. The uniform is detailed with an aigullette, Knight of the Garter sash, and medals including Knight of the Garter, Knight Grand Commander of the Indian Empire, Knight Grand Cross of St Michael, St George, Knight of the Thistle and Royal Victorian Chain. The head of the statue is wearing an Admiral of the Fleet hat and has the King’s distinctive moustache.
First World War Memorial, Matakana is one of many war memorials erected around New Zealand in the aftermath of the 1914-1918 conflict. These memorials were erected by communities at the local and national level and in a variety of forms and a number of these expressions were linked with ideas of peace and victory. These ranged from: the First World War Memorial Beacon (List No. 9652, Category 2 historic place) in erected on Auckland City wharf in 1915; Citizens’ War Memorial (List No. 3693, Category 1 historic place) in Christchurch; cenotaphs including Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial (List No. 1183, Category 2 historic place) in Bulls; triumphal arches such as Methven War Memorial (List No. 7113, Category 2 historic place); and the ANZAC Memorial Bridge (List No. 3969, Category 1 historic place) in Kaiparoro; to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (List No. 94, Category 1 historic place) and National War Memorial (List No. 1410, Category 1 historic place) in Wellington.
The Matakana memorial was the first statue memorial erected to commemorate World War One after the end of the war. Statue memorials had been erected in New Zealand to commemorate the South African War in the years before 1914 including some sculpted in New Zealand – the 1905 Fallen Troopers Memorial (List No. 2273, Category 2 historic place) in Ōamaru by Carlo Bergamini who also created memorials for Palmerston, Waimate, Dunedin, and Riverton. Other New Zealand created statue memorials include a 1924 bronze World War One statue memorial by Frank Lynch for the Devonport First World War Memorial (List No. 4515, Category 2 historic place), and Richard Goss’ sculpted figures for the 1923 World War One Memorial (List No. 4186, Category 2 historic place) in Cambridge and for the 1922 War Memorial at Auckland Grammar School (List No. 4472, Category 1 historic place).
The statue is unusual in depicting King George V in military uniform. Feldon later also created the Arawa Soldier Memorial (within Rotorua Government Gardens Historic Area, List No. 7015), which includes King George in full regal regalia at the top of the statue. This example is more intact than First World War Memorial, Matakana. The Matakana statue is an early depiction of the King internationally with the only earlier examples being in India (1914 statue in Chinnai City, likely sculpted by Herbert Hamilton, 1916 statue in Delhi by Edgar Bertram Mackennal which the King sat for). These and later statues erected to commemorate his death also all depict the King in his royal regalia.
Statue decapitated and repaired
Became part of Matakana Wharf Reserve
Statue relocated within reserve; Court of Honour created
Head removed and lost
2013 - 2014
Conservation, restoration, and new head installed.
Ōamaru stone (whitestone)
Bronze (2014 plaques)
Public NZAA Number
15th July 2020
Report Written By
Phillips, Jock, To the Memory: New Zealand War Memorials, Potton & Burton, New Zealand, 2016
Grant, David R, We Gathered Here: A History of Matakana, Whangarei, 2017.
Machado, Ana, ‘Condition Report: Matakana War Memorial’, Prepared for Auckland Council, July 2019.
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