Story: Memorials and monuments

Page 7. Memorials since 1960

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War memorials

Although New Zealanders have continued to die in foreign wars since 1945, their names have been added to existing memorials, not remembered in new monuments. The army museum in Waiōuru was opened in 1978 as a memorial to the dead of all wars, and a monument to Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk was unveiled in 1990 on Wellington’s south coast in return for the naming of Anzac Cove at Gallipoli.

The most important new war memorial was the tomb of the unknown warrior, which sparked huge public interest when it opened in front of the national war memorial carillon in 2004. The national war memorial complex was enlarged by the creation of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in 2015.


Generally, political leaders fared poorly. Smallish statues of prime ministers Peter Fraser and Keith Holyoake were erected in Wellington, and in 2008 a memorial sculpture honouring David Lange was built in Ōtāhuhu, Auckland.

Yachtsman and adventurer Peter Blake was remembered with a new building and exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin. Mountaineer Edmund Hillary was honoured during his lifetime with statues in Nepal. In New Zealand there are Hillary statues in Ōrewa and at the Hermitage hotel at Aoraki/Mt Cook, where there is also a Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.


Disasters continued to be remembered – large memorials were built to the victims of the 1953 Tangiwai rail disaster at Karori Cemetery, Wellington (1957), and at the accident site (1989), and a monument at Auckland’s Waikumete cemetery to those who died in the 1979 Mt Erebus air crash in Antarctica. In 2017 the Oi Manawa Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial was opened to the public, to acknowledge the impact and victims of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

Heritage New Zealand

In 1954 the New Zealand Historic Places Trust was set up and was tasked with the ‘marking of places and things of national or local historic interest’. A standard concrete marker (4 feet long, 3 feet wide and 3½ feet high) was designed, along with succinct bronze plaques. These appeared at historic places such as sites of exploration or early missionary activity, and some sites of the New Zealand wars and musket wars. By 1977 there were over 200 plaques placed by the trust. In 2014 the trust was renamed Heritage New Zealand.

Other organisations like the Rail Heritage Trust, the Engineering Heritage Board of IPENZ and many local councils had programmes for marking historic sites. In 2003 a survey found over 350 memorial clocks, fountains, seats, statues and plaques in the Christchurch area.

Rainbow Warrior

There were few memorials of any scale after 1960 and prior to the opening of the Canterbury earthquake memorial in 2017. The most significant was perhaps the Rainbow Warrior memorial, a sculpture by Chris Booth on the hills above Matauri Bay where the ship was finally scuttled. The Greenpeace protest vessel had been sunk by French saboteurs in Auckland Harbour in 1985.

How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Memorials and monuments - Memorials since 1960', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 26 July 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 20 Jun 2012, updated 26 Mar 2015