Prime Minister Peter Fraser addresses the gathering at Uepohatu marae in 1947.
The events held at Uepohatu on the 12th and 13th of September included cultural competitions with local school children, a reunion of ex-service people (including members of the Maori Battalion), a concert and the opening of the Uepohatu War Memorial Hall. The hall was built to commemorate East Coast soldiers who died during the two World Wars.
At an investiture ceremony held on the second day, seventeen decorations were presented to servicemen and women who had served abroad and on the home front.
The gathering was an important one, attended by thousands including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser, the Leader of the Opposition Sidney Holland and other members of Parliament. Sir Bernard Freyberg, the Governor General opened the hall and unveiled two memorial tablets inside.
Colleagues of both sides of Parliament and ladies and gentlemen of both races. I wish to express my gratitude for being invited to be here on such a very important occasion. When his Excellency the representative of the King accompanied by her Excellency is to perform two important ceremonies. One, the investiture of those who by their brave and gallant deeds in the battlefield, prove their worth and their courage and their devotion to their race and to their country. Also, the opening of the memorial hall that which Sir Apirana Ngata referred. I want to say that I concur with him entirely in appraising the value of the community value of the building. I don’t think can be any doubt at all. I think it is agreed then, I’m sure Mr Holland concurs and Parliament agrees and everybody who’s given thought to the matter agrees, that the best way we can commemorate those who gave their lives for us and those who sacrificed for us that we might be free is to have something in the community that can be a permanent advantage particularly to the children and the children of future generations.
Now, I’m not going to speak at any great length, but I hope that the spirit of unity, the spirit of veneration in which we are meeting here today can be carried on. During the war period, Maori and Pakeha were united completely. They were one, and they should remain one. Of course, there are political breezes, even in the House of Representatives. And sometimes, I’m sure Mr Holland would agree, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if some of us were cut and not only off the air but off altogether. The closure moves occasionally because none of us can claim infalibilty either in speech or in action. But the fact that it is possible for two parties with a very narrow marginal majority to agree to come to what is in real sense a national celebration without any party advantage being taken reveals the very best side of democratic government. And I want to express my appreciation of that. We have felt, Mr Holland and myself felt, and so did our colleagues, that the occasion was important enough to do honour to those who have saved us, by laying down their lives in greater love of no man than that. That a man layeth down his life for his friends. And we are here to do honour, jointly, Parliament, the whole of Parliament is here to do that honour. Of course, occasionally even elections have to be fought. But when they are over, we accept the results and just unite in the interests of the country.
And may I just say this, there is something deeper and more important as far as both races are concerned, than political victories or reverses. There is something deeper as far as the Maori people are concerned and in that nobody has played a greater part than Sir Apirana Ngata. That is in developing in the genious of the Maori people, in the preservation of their own arts and crafts. In their dances in their chants and the hakas and the songs, in the legends and in the history. The other day I had the very great pleasure of visiting the small committee of clergy men and others along with Sir Apirana Ngata who are giving a better, who are to give our country and the world a better translation of the bible than it has been in the past. They recognise the great work that was done by the Missionaries in giving a language to the Maori, a written language, a printed language to the Maori people. And or rather translating their language into words and now and also to pay tribute to the beautiful work of the early Missionaries but now with all advancement and with development and research work they are in the position to make even a better job. And to preserve as intact as is possible to do the wonderful beauty of the old English version of the bible and translate that with perhaps with added beauty into the Maori language. And I am glad to see our friend Bishop Bennett, the Reverend Mr Laughton, The Reverend Mr Kohere and so many others who are connected with the various churches here today. And I want to express the countries thanks to them, to those who are on that committee for the fine work they are doing. The good part of which has already been completed.
Now there are men whom any race can be proud of, who in the achievements of letters and culture and science have created a name that will be permanent in the history of our country. Sir Apriana Ngata is one, Sir James Carroll was another and there are many others, but the most distinguished outside of our own country is Sir Peter Buck. And I hope that when Sir Peter Buck comes back to the investiture in this country. When he comes back to his native country to receive the honour, so fittingly bestowed upon him by the King and which has been applauded not only in our country but throughout the whole of the United States and amongst scientists everywhere. When he comes back I hope that the country Maori and Pakeha will unite in doing him honour.
Today we are met in a solumn occasion, on an occasion that penetrates to the very innermost recesses of the souls of our people. The eyes and the ears in New Zealand will be on this beautiful spot here at Ruatoria today, the centre of the Maori people of the East Coast. And they will wish the ceremony well. I can only in conclusion extend once more our sympathy to those who have been bereaved during the war. They have the consolation that their lives have not been laid down in vain. If the spirit that has prevailed, during the, prevailed, that prevailed durng the war period is present and now to help the United Kingdom in its hour of distress. To try and repay part of the debt that we owe the United Kingdom that took a leading part and for a time, almost the only part except such help as the Dominion’s could give her to save the world. We are united in that and I hope that as part of the future of our country is concerned, that that unity will grow and increase. I hope the ceremony will be very successful. I know it will be impressive and all of us will carry the memory of today as a great occasion when Pakeha and Maori, when Maori and Pakeha, met to do honour to the sons of both races on the East Coast. Thank you.
Sound file from Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. (43117). Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero.
Image: S P Andrew Ltd. Peter Fraser. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: PAColl-5547-033. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23103352