Pukeahu and Nationhood

The gradual transformation of Pukeahu into a National War Memorial over the last 100 years is an example of how our symbols and traditions change over time in order to remain relevant and contemporary.

Our Head of State, in all but name, His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, and our Head of Government, The Right Honourable John Key both spoke at the official opening ceremony for Pukeahu, the National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

Each paid tribute to the sacrifices made by so many New Zealanders over the years. Both described Pukeahu as a place of great significance. Sir Jerry Mateparae said of Pukeahu that "more than anywhere else, reminds us how precious peace is to us all".

He asserted that "national commemorations should be a shared experience – standing side by side with compatriots from all walks of life, with people of all ages, ethnicities and beliefs – all drawn together to be in a place of remembrance".

The Prime Minister outlined the gradual changes to the memorial site.  In 1919 the Government agreed to build a National War Memorial in Wellington "so that future governments would not forget the sacrifice that had been made". The Carillon was completed and opened in 1932. The Hall of Memories was added in 1964. 2004 saw the return of The Unknown Soldier. With the opening of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park another dimension was added, "a place imbued with deep significance, which will be meaningful to New Zealanders for many generations to come".

Official titles and names, traditions and ceremonies, laws and conventions, places of worship and remembrance. All are anchor points in an ever changing world. Yet they never stay the same. They slowly evolve over time.

Moving to a democratic Head of State is part of New Zealand's evolving national identity.  Transitioning and updating the role of Governor-General will maintain the traditions and conventions of the past but imbue them with added significance.

A New Zealand Head of State will symbolise a society where New Zealanders of all ages, ethnicities and beliefs stand side by side as citizens and compatriots.

You can read the Governor-General's speech here and the Prime Minister's speech here