Memorial Hall, a community space throughout time
Memorial Hall is one of the most significant buildings in our district and is located on an area that is pivotal to our shared cultural history. As the repair and upgrade to Memorial Hall gets underway, we thought we would take a walk down memory lane and explore some of the history of this community space.
The Kaikōura Memorial Hall displays the names of many Kaikōura families whose boys fell in the Second World War, while the plaques on the obelisk across the road now include the names of those killed in the South African War 1899-1902, the first World War, the Korean War 1950-1953, the Malayan conflict 1952-1960, Borneo 1965-1966, and the Vietnam War 1964-1975.
Memorial Hall was built in the 1950s and is used by the community as the main gathering space and event centre. The building caters for a range of events and activities and has facilities including, but not limited to, a main hall with a stage, catering rooms, bar, supper room, meeting rooms and ablutions.
The area that Memorial Hall is located on was an important settlement for early Māori and is of great cultural significance. In the 1820s and 1830s Te Rauparaha and his allies attacked Ngāi Tahu around this area.
1945 – An increase in traffic
On 15 December 1945 the Christchurch-Picton railway was opened at Kaikōura in front of an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 5,000. This development significantly increased a variety of traffic travelling to and through Kaikōura.
1955 - Opening of the hall
A newspaper article from Monday June 27th 1955 describes the opening of the hall:
On a perfect winters day, with bright sunshine and a keenness in the air to remind those present it was nearly the middle of the coldest season of the year, the Kaikōura county memorial to the fallen in the second World War was officially opened last Friday afternoon by the Hon. J. K. McAlpine (Minister of Railways), before a crowd of between 800 and 1000, including representation of the Māori people and neighbouring boroughs and councils… Mr Hewson said that the day was a momentous one in the history of the county and, as chairman, it was his proud privilege and duty to officiate at the very large gathering drawn from every riding in the county and from neighbouring counties also. “Today marks the occasion that we have all looked forward to with a sense of pride and thanksgiving…”
Mr Hewson said he was also pleased to welcome Mr Tirikatene, who had favoured the county with his presence, because he represented the Māori race as a Member of Parliament. “No doubt you are aware that with the kind of co-operation of the Kaikōura Tribal Committee a portion of very sacred and historic native cemetery reserve has been made available so that the Memorial Hall was 32,000 pounds.”
In 1955 upon the opening of Memorial Hall, Mr Tirikatene (Māori MP) prefaced his remarks by addressing those present in Māori, in which he paid a tribute to those who had passed into the great beyond and expressed his sympathy with and paid homage to those who had lost their dear ones. “I also bring you greetings from the Māori people on such an occasion. The guard of honour speaks volumes for the courageous men and women who laid down their lives that we may look out upon the beautiful sea free and unmolested.” Mr Tirikatene offered his sympathy to those who had lost sons on the battlefield and said the memorial to their memory was most outstanding. Mr Tirikatene said he was grateful for the invitation to be present and associated with the Minister in opening such a building. “There is a lot one would like to say, but feel there is little you can.”
Appreciation was expressed by Mr Tirikatene of the reference to the goodwill of the Māori people in acceding to the prayers of the council that part of the Māori cemetery reserve be used on which to build to centre. In bygone days it may have been arduous to persuade the elders to agree to such a request, but with the western civilisation and the harmonious relationship existing between the races a great picture of unanimity had been made possible.
A worthy memorial to the fallen had been brought into being by the sinking of differences of opinion, and this was a great day for Kaikōura and New Zealand – a recognition of those who had paid the supreme sacrifice.
1962 – Ferry increases traffic
From 1962 the roll-on, roll-off ferry between Wellington and Picton brought more freight and passenger traffic, both road and rail. Through all the changes that came to Kaikōura in this period, the Memorial Hall has remained the place that residents and visitors congregate, and come together as a community to celebrate who they are and where they have come from.
2016 – Earthquake impact
After the devastating 2016 earthquake, the Memorial Hall was the only place big enough where the community could once again come together and learn what was happening, where to access clean water, food, petrol and to connect with each other. An analysis of the building was undertaken following the quake, were repairs were identified.
2018 – Repairs from the 2016 earthquake
Council applied to the Lottery Environment and Heritage Fund in August 2018 for funding to repair and upgrade the Memorial Hall, so it can continue to connect and support the Kaikōura community. Council received $750,000 for this work. Council addressed the need of the community to restore, protect and conserve the historically significant and meaningful building, preserving the district’s heritage for future generations.
Thanks to Kaikōura Museum for providing this information.
10 May 2019