Rare war me­mo­rial high­lighted

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The sig­nif­i­cance of an un­usual war me­mo­rial has been high­lighted in an in­ven­tory of World War I mon­u­ments car­ried out by Her­itage New Zealand in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty re­gion last year.

The in­ven­tory iden­ti­fied Te Poi War Me­mo­rial Hall as be­ing one of the old­est war me­mo­rial halls in the coun­try – and some­thing of a rar­ity.

‘‘The hall is un­usual in that it bucked the na­tional trend for World War I me­mo­ri­als.

‘‘Af­ter the war, purely or­na­men­tal me­mo­ri­als were favoured over more func­tional me­mo­ri­als like halls and li­braries,’’ Her­itage New Zealand’s lower north­ern man­ager Ben Pick said.

‘‘The phi­los­o­phy of the time – re­in­forced by the then Min­is­ter of De­fence, James Allen – was that war me­mo­ri­als should be non-util­i­tar­ian, artis­tic struc­tures cap­tur­ing the idea that the Great War was fought to pre­serve ide­al­is­tic and spir­i­tual val­ues. Only about five per­cent of all of New Zealand’s First World War me­mo­ri­als were halls.’’

Con­structed in 1922, the hall memo­ri­alised nine lo­cal men – two of whom were killed in ac­tion in the First World War.

‘‘The lo­cal Sunny Park Co-op­er­a­tive Dairy Com­pany gifted the site for the hall along with £50 to­wards the build­ing of the hall it­self, re­flect­ing the im­por­tance of dairy farm­ing in the com­mu­nity,’’ Pick said.

‘‘The dairy com­pany recog­nised the need for a place to hold pub­lic meet­ings, and the Mata­mata County Coun­cil – per­haps also con­vinced of the need for such a fa­cil­ity – con­trib­uted £75 to­wards the hall.’’

Lo­cal peo­ple got be­hind the project, rais­ing money for the hall as well as gift­ing their labour, which in­cluded mak­ing hun­dreds of cav­ity con­crete blocks.

‘‘The re­sult was a build­ing that dis­guised its hum­ble con­crete ori­gins with some styling from clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture – which in­cluded an en­trance por­tico flanked by two im­pres­sive col­umns rep­re­sent­ing strength and sta­bil­ity,’’ Pick said. In­side, the hall fea­tured stained rimu beams, a stage, dress­ing rooms, a sup­per room and a mar­ble me­mo­rial tablet.

The me­mo­rial hall was opened on Au­gust 11, 1922 by the chair­man of the Mata­mata County Coun­cil. In 1947 the com­mu­nity de­cided to ex­tend the hall as a me­mo­rial for Sec­ond World War ser­vice­men.

The mod­ern style ad­di­tion was opened in 1957, with 30 Te Poi Re­turned Sol­diers As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers form­ing a guard of hon­our for the 400 lo­cals who at­tended the cer­e­mony. To­day the Te Poi War Me­mo­rial Hall con­tin­ues to be used for pub­lic events and meet­ings.

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