Rt Hon John Key
18 April 2015
Official opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
Thank you all for being here to witness the official opening of this park as a place of commemoration and remembrance for the whole nation.
This opening comes as we are focussed on the 100th commemorations of the First World War.
That war had a deep and abiding impact on New Zealand and New Zealanders. In our small nation, almost every family was affected by it.
It is hard to describe the scale of mourning in the decade that followed the end of the war. People wanted to ensure that the sacrifice of their family members and fellow citizens would never be forgotten.
This desire to remember led to more than 500 local war memorials being erected in communities around the country.
In 1919 the Government agreed to build a National War Memorial here in Wellington.
It was to be placed so it would be visible from any part of the city, from ships entering the harbour, and from Parliament so that future governments would never forget the sacrifice that had been made.
The Carillon was completed and opened in 1932 in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 people. The Hall of Memories was added 32 years later. More recently, in 2004, we saw the return of New Zealand’s Unknown Warrior.
Today, with the opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, we add another dimension and a place for New Zealanders to come together on ceremonial occasions.
Standing here today, I feel proud of the decision to make Pukeahu a reality.
New Zealanders can come here to reflect on our history of involvement in conflicts and the role that has played in shaping our national identity.
They can come here also to honour the hundreds of thousands of New Zealand men and women who have served their country in war and in peace-keeping, those who continue to serve, and the 30,000 who have died in service.
This is also a place where we can acknowledge our important international relationships. The Australian Memorial will be dedicated in two days’ time, the first of several memorials which will pay tribute to our relationships with other nations.
The commitment and dedication that has gone into creating this space reflects how strongly everyone involved wanted to ensure that the National War Memorial finally had the setting it deserved.
I am one of those people.
Creating this park has involved a long period of careful planning and two-and-a-half years of construction – all of which required the co-operation and strong partnerships of a huge number of organisations and groups. I thank them all.
I would like to acknowledge those Parliamentary colleagues, on both sides of the House, who have supported this project from the beginning.
I also acknowledge Wellington City Council for its significant contribution, including financial support.
In keeping with the original vision, we have created a place imbued with deep significance, which will be meaningful to New Zealanders for many generations to come.
I invite New Zealanders to use the park, and to reflect.
Pukeahu National War Memorial Park will help us honour the pledge that we regularly renew: Lest We Forget.