The restored Te Arawa Soldiers’ Memorial will be unveiled 92 years to the day that it was originally erected in 1927 and the public are invited to attend.
Dawn commemorations will begin beside the memorial (corner of Queen’s Drive and Oruawhata Drive) at 6am on Thursday 28 February.
The service will be conducted to bless the rededicated memorial and several people will assist in the unveiling including a representative from the Te Arawa Returned Services League.
Mayor Steve Chadwick will speak during the ceremony, which will be attended by local and national dignitaries including Lieutenant Colonel Warren Banks MNZM ED as representative for the New Zealand Chief of Defence.
The memorial was erected by Te Arawa to commemorate Te Arawa men who fought and lost their lives in World War One (1914-1918). First unveiled on 28 February 1927 by HRH the Duke of York (later King George VI), the memorial includes the names of 35 Te Arawa men.
The project to restore this significant piece of Te Arawa military history was commissioned by the Rotorua World War One Committee in 2016 after receiving funding from the Lotteries World War One Commemorations, Environment and Heritage Fund, New Zealand Community Trust, the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute (NZMACI).
The project included several phases, the first being repair and conservation of the stonework on the memorial. Master stone conservator Marco Bürger spent several months in late 2016 carefully working on the memorial.
Experts from NZMACI restored the original wooden eight tekoteko and four ‘wheku form’ pou that originally surrounded the memorial. Then they used 3D scanning and wax moulds were made of the carvings prior to bronze replications being cast.
The final step in the project was to replicate the stone statue of Te Arawa ancestor Rangitihi, which was badly damaged and removed from the memorial in 1936. Local master carver Rakei Kingi was chosen to carve Rangitihi and used Hinuera stone, sourced from a quarry near Tirau.
Rotorua Lakes Council Arts & Culture Manager, Stewart Brown, is pleased this important memorial is ready to be unveiled to Te Arawa and the public after so much hard work.
“The unveiling showcases the talent and passion of expert conservators and carvers along with the generous support of many funders who understood the importance of this memorial. The Te Arawa Soldiers’ Memorial is one of only a few erected by Māori to commemorate their men who fought and died in World War One. The rededication restores mana to this memorial and shows respect to those who are honoured upon it”, says Mr Brown.
Rotorua Library will be hosting a talk about the restoration of the memorial at 2pm on the afternoon of the unveiling (Thursday 28 February). Rotorua Lakes Council Researcher, Ben Manley, will talk about the history of the Te Arawa Soldiers’ Memorial before Eugene Kara of NZMACI discusses the restoration process.