Saturday, 21 April 2018

ANZAC Day in Rotorua

Remembering the fallen : a brief history

ANZAC Day was first observed in NZ on the 25th April 1916. The following year it was changed to the 23rd April as there were Municipal elections to be held on the 25th. From 1918, the remembrance day has been held on the 25th April.

Poppy Making by Rotorua Children with Jill Walker
The Anzac Day Act of 1920 stated that 25 April was to be observed throughout New Zealand as a public holiday. All licensed premises were to be closed and no race meetings held. This was amended by a 1921–22 Act which stated that 25 April was to be observed in all respects as if Anzac Day were a Sunday. This Act declared the observance of Anzac Day as a commemoration of the part taken by New Zealand troops in the Great War and of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the Empire. The Anzac Day Act of 1949 enlarged the scope of the original Act by making the day one of commemoration for those who served in the Second World War and the South Africa War as well as in the First World War. URL: (accessed 10 Apr 2018)
Reprinted and amended 2014 Anzac Day Act 1966

The Wairarapa Daily Times reported the following on 26 April 1916. :
“A half holiday was observed on account of ANZAC Day, Mr Hill Resident Officer presided.  The service included many Returned Soldiers, cadets and Boy & Girl scouts.  The Anglican Clergy did not participate as the Bishop of Waiapu had forbidden them to take part in the united service. There was a large proportion of Anglican’s in the congregation. Reverend’s D. Herd and F. Stubbs (Presbyterian), B. Peat (Methodist) and Captain Whiteley (Salvationist) took part”
NZH 27 April 1918, p.6

Returned Soldiers were on parade for the 1918 ANZAC service accompanied by Colonel Stuart Newall, territorials, senior cadets, boy & girl scouts and school children. The service was attended by nearly 2000 people. There were at least 20 ANZACS who were provided front row seats.

On the 25th April 1916, 1000 Rotorua citizens attended the inaugural ANZAC Commemoration service in the Government Gardens. The dawn service was held in the Gardens until 1929 when it was held at Ohinemutu, and on one occasion at the newly unveiled memorial arch Te Hokowhitu-A-Tu, at the entrance to Whakarewarewa Village in 1950. 

In 1929 the Arawa Returned Soldiers established the Soldiers Cemetery, for the Arawa Soldiers of the Pioneer Battalion, final resting place at Muruika Point, Ohinemutu. From this time onwards the ANZAC Dawn Service has been held at Muruika Point, with a few exceptions.  The other Memorial Service was held in the afternoon in the Bath Building, guest speaker was The Hon. W. Downie Stewart.

A Civic Memorial Service was also held on ANZAC Day in the Government Gardens usually in the afternoon.  Sir Joseph Ward was in Rotorua for the 1930 ANZAC service hosted by Mayor T. Jackson.     This is service is in addition to the Dawn Parade Service at Ohinemutu.  

In 1955 "Arbor Day was celebrated by citizens of Rotorua with the planting of trees in the new War Memorial Park" in Rotorua Morning Post, 4th August 1955 p.1
The trees were mostly Rhododendrons and Silver Birch and still line the Memorial Drive, having been moved once to widen the road. 

In 1958 the ANZAC commemoration was held at the newly installed WW2 Memorial Gates, part of the entrance to ‘War Memorial Park’ at the lake end of Fenton Street. 

Other memorial trees at War Memorial Park include a Sequoia replaced in 1979, the Plane Trees marking the original lake front and the Olive Tree planted 1972.

The Anzac Civic Memorial Service was held at the Civic Theatre until 2015 when the Energy Events Centre was the location due to the beginning of the WW100 Centennial, since then it has been at the Civic Theatre and this year (2018) will be at the Sportsdrome.

Municipal Civic Centre 1940-1995.
Courtesy of the Rotorua Library collection of the Rotorua Photo News.

With thanks to the 'Don Stafford Collection", Papers Past and Te Ara Encyclopedia for the above information.

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