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Sombre unveiling on Queens Drive in Rotorua

The monument in all its glory.

For a faltering second or two, today’s unveiling of a restored WWl memorial on Queen’s Drive and Oruawhata Drive in Rotorua seemed destined for more than melancholic reflection.

As kaumatua Monty Morrison addressed a gathering of 250, he appeared to collect himself as he recalled sad news of the last several days in the wider district.

For tinged with the blessing and re-dedication ceremony marking a monument was first crafted 92 years ago, was a sombre acknowledgement of sadness to hit the region in the last three days.

Over the coming days, Monty says, Te Arawa will bury three of its own killed in truck tragedy at Matata on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the community learned that its leading intellectual, the supremely gifted Dr Barry Smith, had died, aged 72, after a short illness.

This morning’s ceremony which began at 6am and ended 35 minutes later marked the complete restoration of a memorial by Te Arawa to commemorate Te Arawa men who fought and were killed in WWl.

Pita Anaru leads servicemen past the memorial.

First unveiled by the Duke of York (later King George Vl), the memorial includes all 35 Te Arawa men who did not return.

One of the final pieces of Te Arawa history – a major book project has been in the pipeline for several years – was with due ceremony unveiled.

One of the first past the monument was Pita Anaru, who along with Bomb Gillies, is one of the last surviving members of the fabled 28th Maori Battalion.

The project to restore the monument was commissioned by the Rotorua War Committee in 2016, through funding from the Lotteries World War One Commemorations and other funding bodies including the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick acknowledged the work of all involved in the project.

“How wonderful it is to be here this morning, celebrating this restoration of this uniquely Rotorua memorial 92 years to the very day that it was first unveiled in 1928.”

In many ways it marked the beginning and the end of the district’s WWl committee commemorations.

She thanked the diverse aspects of the Rotorua community which oversaw this and other projects.

Wreaths lay before the monument. Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick lays her wreath.

It encouraged tamariki and rangitahi to extend their knowledge of WWl and the consequences for the community, the establishment of the field of remembrance and other initiatives.

“We had an amazing four years,” says Steve of the group she headed for the completion of the project.

“This ensures that future generations of Rotorua citizens will be able to view and appreciate a unique piece of our city’s history – 35 of our Te Arawa men who died are listed on the monument.

“We think about them and we honour their sacrifice for the restoration of the memorial and the re-dedication this morning.”

She acknowledgea the key roles by local carvers.

Unveiled, a swish and all is revealed.

 

 

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