1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque – Pukeahu Park

Steel plaque inscribed with text sitting on grass

It took four years for the First World War to kill 18,000 New Zealand soldiers. Yet in just six weeks, between early November and mid-December 1918, nearly 9000 New Zealanders died from influenza and pneumonia in the worst pandemic in modern history. It was a global calamity. The most reliable estimates place the death toll at around 50 million, or nearly 3 per cent of the world population at the time. In New Zealand, the pandemic struck crowded military camps hard. About 2500 Māori died, seven times the death rate for non-Māori.

The memorial plaque remembers those who lost their lives in the pandemic and acknowledges the many health professionals and volunteers who risked their lives to care for the sick. It also recognises that the tragedy helped to shape modern approaches to the management of infectious diseases.

The memorial was a joint project of Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage and  Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health. The location was selected for its association with the First World War and its proximity to other sites connected with the pandemic and the Pacific Islands, which were hit hard during the outbreak. The Pacific Islands memorial is nearby.

Designed by Neil Pardington and Wraight & Associates, the memorial features a graphic representation of the scale of the pandemic’s impact across New Zealand regions from north to south. The plaque’s zinc appearance recalls the zinc sulphate inhalation sprayers used (ineffectually) as a preventative measure during the pandemic. The stencilled form of the text references the labelling on crates of medical supplies.

The memorial was unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 6 November 2019, 101 years to the day since influenza was declared a notifiable infectious disease, allowing emergency measures to be taken to prevent its spread.

Further information

The 1918 influenza pandemic – NZHistory

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