Something I see flash by every time I head north into Temuka is the interesting looking cream archway on the Northern corner of Huirapa St and the Timaru-Temuka Highway. On my last trip I decided to stop and check it out.
It is known as The Ratana War Memorial and was erected at the entrance to a reserve at Arowhenua by members of the Ratana movement in memory of the South Island Maori who fell in the 1914-1918 war. Several plaques have been added over the years as further memorials.
This arched gateway is decorated with moulded motifs and images which are done in the style of a traditional whakaiho carved wooden entranceway.
These images and mouldings of the Star of David, mere, taiaha and natural designs associated with the Ratana movement.
It consists of a gabled ‘bargeboard’ arch with a carved figure at the apex and short columns on the sides.
What makes this example unique however is that it is carved from Oamaru stone rather than wood.
Work began with the clearing of the site in early 1934 with the carving work to be done by Maori craftsmen from the North Island.
There were a few recorded delays and setbacks on the way to unveiling the gateway. Ratana and his Roopu (party of 68 members) arrived on November 12th for the ceremony but rain delayed events till the following day. On the 13th November 1935 the weather cleared, the Morehu Silver Brass Band played, Ratana delivered his speech, hymns were sung and the gateway was unveiled.
I was surprised to see it has no Historic Places Trust listing at this stage. Records are held of the Memorial and Ratana’s speech at the Timaru Library, in the archives Built Heritage Inventory.
The arch faces the Holy Trinity Church across Huirapa St and is well worth a look. The carvings, mouldings and inscriptions are weathered but have been painted to help retain their integrity and it is substantially intact.
It is quite peaceful given its busy location and the reserve it leads to is a pleasing place to be. It’s a unique and beautiful memorial.
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