Wellington's Basin Reserve was transformed from a lagoon to a swamp in the 1855 earthquake, and over the next decade cricketers, aided by prisoners from Mt Cook Gaol, turned the swamp into a sports ground. Although cricket was always the most common use for the ground, it served other activities that needed an open space with good viewing by spectators.
One of the more unusual events at the Basin was a Māori carnival held on 28–29 March 1900. It was a fund-raising effort on behalf of the troopers who had left for the South African War. Since the British government had decreed that it was a 'white man's war', Māori were not officially allowed to serve (although some individual Māori did), and the carnival was arranged to allow Māori an expression of patriotic support for the British Empire. Māori from the East Coast, Wairarapa and Ōtaki came to Wellington by train, camped at the Basin Reserve and on two successive days put on displays that included performances by the Papawai Brass Band, poi dancing and haka, one of which was called 'Kiki te Poa' (kick the Boer – Boers being the Afrikaans-speaking people the British were fighting in South Africa). This photograph was probably taken during the carnival, which was attended by more than 8,000 people.
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