Wi Pere memorial, Gisborne

Wi Pere memorial Wi Pere memorial

Sir James Carroll MP unveiled the Wi Pere memorial on Read’s Quay, Gisborne, on 9 April 1919. He was assisted by the Rev. R.T. Kohere, the Rev. F. Bennett and Chaplain-Captain Peni Te Uamairangi Hakiwai. Āpirana Ngata MP and Chaplain-Captain Henare Wepiha Te Wainohu also gave speeches. The politician and landowner Wi [Wiremu] Pere (1837-1915) had served as an MP from 1894 to 1905 and been a member of the Legislative Council from 1907 to 1912. He had played a leading role in recruiting Māori from the East Coast for military service in 1914. Appropriately, therefore, the ceremony formed part of the official celebrations welcoming home the East Coast members of the Māori Pioneer Battalion from the war.

The memorial was a dignified structure consisting of an obelisk of grey Haricourt Victorian granite mounted on a concrete base and decorated with red granite columns and ornaments. The spire was engraved with a taiaha. On the front of the column were the words ERECTED BY THE / GOVERNMENT OF NEW ZEALAND / AND / THE MAORI PEOPLE / TO THE MEMORY OF / WI PERE / 1837-1915. On the left hand side was an inscription in Maori, I WHAKAARAHIA I TE WA O TE HUI AROHA MO TE TAHUA MA NGA HOIA MAORI, APERIRA 1919; and on the right, I HURAHIA I TE WA I / MAI AI TE OPE HOIA MAORI / TE HOKOWHITU A TU / APERIRA 1919 (these were translated at the time respectively as: “Unveiled at the time of the Maori hui to raise money for the soldiers”, and “To commemorate the landing of the Maori troops at Gisborne, April 1919”).

The monument was refurbished in 2017.

See: ‘Welcome Home: Arrival of Maori Pioneers’, Poverty Bay Herald, 10/4/1919, p. 2; ‘Historical Hui’, Poverty Bay Herald, 4/4/1919, p. 5; ‘Hui Aroha’ [public notice], Poverty Bay Herald, 8/4/1919, p. 4, col. 3; ‘Wi Pere Memorial’, Poverty Bay Herald, 10/4/1919, p. 2; Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge, New Zealand’s First World War Heritage, Titirangi, 2015, p. 176; ‘Wi Pere monument restoration complete’, Gisborne Herald, 1/4/2017.

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