Te Rau o Te Aroha Māori Battalion Hall

Blue and grey concrete building with red car parked outside.

Te Rau o Te Aroha Māori Battalion Hall, in Cuba Street, Palmerston North, was erected both as a meeting hall and as a national memorial to the men of the 28th Māori Battalion who died in World War Two. It was opened by Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson on 27 June 1964 (photographs of the hall on the day can be found on the Manawatu Heritage website).

The three-storey Te Rau o Te Aroha ('emblem of gratitude') was designed by architect John Scott of Haumoana, Hawkes Bay (Te Arawa). The 14 carved panels on the façade  were carved by Kelly Kereama of Feilding to designs by Scott emblematic of different tribal styles. Inside, tukutuku panels were used, while intricate kowhaiwhai patterns adorned the exposed beams. All the concrete surfaces, both inside and out, were left unplastered, with the marks of the boxing visible, to symbolise the strength of the Māori people.

The Māori Battalion roll of honour, housed in an alcove off the main hall, listed the names of 639 men who had not returned from the war, inscribed on 14 brass tablets. Photographs of some of the men were also on display. Four carved wooden statues of soldiers, representing A, B, C and D companies of the Battalion, stood on either side of the alcove.

Over the years the building has served a variety of functions, including housing a nightclub and a community youth club. Its  most recent long-term occupant was the Visual Arts School of Te Wananga O Aotearoa. Its use is currently restricted because of earthquake risk, but it still serves as an assembly point for Anzac Day ceremonies.

Sources: 'Maori Battalion Memorial: A Distinguished Building by a Gifted Architect', Te Ao Hou, no. 47, June 1964, pp. 32-3; Craig Martin, 'Maori Battalion Memorial, Palmerston North, 1954-1964' (John Scott Architect, 2006); Te Rau Aroha Maori Battalion Hall (NZ Institute of Architects); 'Enduring Tribute to Sacrifice', Manawatu Standard, 28/6/2014.

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