Pacific aftermath

Page 2 – Peace celebrations in the Pacific

The Cook Islands

News of the Armistice in Europe in November 1918 came swiftly to Rarotonga via its new wireless station.

Technicians from the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department had set up a temporary receiving plant in early 1918. A daily bulletin of war news was now received from wireless stations in New Zealand, Samoa, Honolulu, Fiji and Tahiti. Translated into Cook Islands Māori, this was displayed in the local post offices. The islanders were left in no doubt they were now linked to the outside world.

News of the Armistice took longer to reach the outer islands of the Cook group. It had to await the arrival of a schooner from Rarotonga with supplies and news. Every island in the Cooks had men away on war service, so news was eagerly awaited.


Niue had no wireless station, so war news was dependent on the arrival of a vessel from Auckland. The Niue Contingent had been returned to the island in late 1916. Though a second contingent was in training, all Niuean servicemen were accounted for.

The Resident Commissioner on Niue, Guy Morris, decided to make the planting of coconuts the main feature of peace celebrations in 1919. This idea was, he reported, adopted enthusiastically by the islanders. Some villages set aside a piece of land as a ‘peace plantation’, some planted along the roads, and some planted individually in plantations. In all, 15,000 nuts were planted – a useful boost to an economy overwhelmingly reliant on exports of copra. In addition, returned soldiers played a big part in the festivities that were held in some villages. They also erected a memorial in Alofi to their fallen comrades.

Even in this little island outpost the war has left its effects. There is the sadness of lonely Niuean graves in countries the names of which were hardly known hitherto to the Natives.

Guy Morris, Resident Commissioner, Niue

How to cite this page

'Peace celebrations in the Pacific', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016