Wairaka Marae memorial gates, Whakatāne

Memorial tree Memorial tree plaque

On the morning of 23 September 1950, Ngāti Awa celebrated the 600th anniversary of the landing of the migration canoe Mātaatua at Whakatāne. Later in the same day Mr Ernest Corbett, Minister of Maori Affairs, formally opened the newly built war memorial gates at the entrance to Wairaka Marae, near the Whakatāne waterfront. The gates were dedicated by Canon Poihipi Ruahia as a memorial to the 500 men of the iwi who had given their lives during the South African War, First World War and Second World War.

The plaque above the substantial rough-cast archway displays a representation of the Mātaatua along with the phrase ‘Mata-atua Waka, 1350”; to the left is a plaque inscribed “Boer War 1899-1913 / World War I 1914-1918 / World War II 1939 – 1945”; to the right, the equivalent in Māori.

The olive tree that stands near the gates (as the inscribed granite tablet at its foot records): “was presented to the New Zealand veterans of the Battle of Crete 20/30 May 1941 by the people of Galatas, Crete, as a symbol of love and warm connections between New Zealand and Galatas people. Galatas, Crete, 20th May 1971.”

See: ‘Maoris Celebrate Sextennial of Canoe’s Arrival, Auckland Star, 23/9/1950, p. 1; ‘Colourful Ceremony Recalls Maori Canoe Landing’, NZ Herald, 25/9/1950, p. 8; Whakatane Returned Services Association Inc., 50th Jubilee, Auckland, 1983, pp. 31-5, 37-40.

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