Memorial Gates Changes: Secretive & Dishonest?

TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND. GOD BLESS YOU AND THANK YOU. PRESENTED IN OBSERVANCE OF THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WORLD WAR II ARRIVAL OF THE SECOND MARINE DIVISION. SECOND MARINE DIVISION ASSOCIATION 1963

A huge event for Kapiti

By Roger Childs

Crowds turned out to see the Prime Minister open the gates. (Photo courtesy of John Porter)

Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, opened the Memorial Gates at the Mackay Crossing entrance to Queen Elizabeth Park in 1963. It was one of the largest official events in the history of the Kapiti Coast.

The gates were paid for by the Second Marine Division Association (see the words of their plaque above), and the New Zealand-American Association (NZAA).

Marine veterans came from all over the United States for the occasion: they marched through the streets of Wellington before being heading out to Paekakariki.

In the middle of 2017, the gates were removed and left in the grass near the Park nursery.

The guardian of the Marines heritage in Queen Elizabeth Park – the Kapiti US Marines Trust (KUSMT) – were not consulted, and only found out after they had been replaced with a sliding gate.

A furtive and dishonest process

The new sliding gate: easier to lock and get stock trucks through.

The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) who administer Queen Elizabeth Park, were responsible for changing the historic gates, but did not consult with

~ The Second Marine Division Association

~ The New Zealand – American Association

~ The Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park

~ The Kapiti US Marines Trust.

However in the Resource Consent approved by the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) in April 2016, it was stated that: All persons considered to be affected parties have provided their written approval.

This was patently untrue. No-one on the KUSMT, as well as in the other groups mentioned above, knew about the very specific proposal to remove and replace the historic gates.

Furthermore, there seemed to be a desire not to publicise the proposed change, as clause 10.1 in the KCDC approval stated: … that the application need not be publicly notified.

It was a local farmer who advised one of the KUSMT that the work had been done.

So much for heritage

Left in the grass. (Photo by Mike Alexander)

There is a strong impression that the GWRC did this job on the quiet in order to present interested parties with a fait accompli. If not, why did they fail to consult with four significant stakeholders?

The resource consent proposal stated that The original wrought iron sections are bent, and not in a particularly good condition … In fact there are minor dents in two or three places and basically the condition of the gates is very good. (See the photo alongside.) An expert in metal crafting says that that this minimal damage could have been easily fixed.

The proposal also said that The gates will be stored in the park. As the photo shows they have been thrown in the grass and could easily have been stolen.

Historic heritage values were referred to a number of times in the proposal, but in reality were paid scant attention.

It has been suggested that a key reason for replacing the original historic gates with a sliding gate on rollers, is to allow the farmers to move stock trucks through more easily.

 Memorial Gates with great heritage value

The NZAA plaque on one of the pillars highlights the huge historical significance of the original gates.

HALF THE WORLD DISTANCE FROM HOME THEY CAMPED HERE.

THIS PLAQUE WAS ERECTED BY THE NEW ZEALAND AMERICAN ASSOCIATION TO RECORD THE GRATEFUL THANKS OF THE PEOPLE OF NEW ZEALAND TO THE US MARINES. THEY CAMPED ON THIS SPOT FROM JUNE 1942 TO NOVEMBER 1943 WHILE HELPING TO DEFEND THIS COUNTRY. LATER THEY FOUGHT IN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS WHERE THEY MADE THE SUPREME SACRIFICE AND CEMENTED AN EVERLASTING FRIENDSHIP.

The original gates are a symbol of a very significant part of our history, and have served well for 54 years.

They should be restored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GWRC has met with representatives of the KUSMT to resolve issues relating to the removal and replacement of the Heritage gates in Queen Elizabeth Park.

While communication on the issue has not been as good as it could’ve been, both parties acknowledge an enduring and extremely good working relationship that has seen them achieve a great deal together. We regret any upset this has caused.

The park entrance gates were removed as part of the current upgrade at the Mackays Crossing entrance way. This is also part of a regional programme to introduce automatic gates at key park entrances to improve park security, reduce ongoing contractor costs, free up park ranger time, and keep costs down for ratepayers.

GWRC investigated automating the original gates but they had been damaged over time by car collisions and we did not regard this as a sustainable option. Also, the weight of the gates was gradually damaging the brick columns on which they were hung – making them increasingly hard to shut. In commissioning the new gates, the Council made every effort to keep the look and feel of the older gates, while making them fit for purpose.

Park staff left the gates near the park nursery, because they were too heavy to lift manually and an appropriate heavy vehicle was needed to pick them up and take them into storage. The gates were safely stored away about three weeks ago.

There is a lot more historic interpretation relating to US Marines history to be done in the park. Both parties are interested in seeing the original gates re-installed in the US Marines Memorial precinct which is currently being developed further along Whareroa Road.

The gates MUST be restored not ‘should’.
I am sure there are other sites where the gates can now be placed if they cannot be returned to their proper site.
The new site needs to be suitably conspicuous with a new plaque indicating the origin of the gates
.