Memorial Square opens for Anzac

By Chris Steel

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Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson raises the national flag to declare Memorial Square open. The flag will again be raised tomorrow to mark Anzac Day.
Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson raises the national flag to declare Memorial Square open. The flag will again be raised tomorrow to mark Anzac Day.

Katikati's $300,000 Memorial Square was officially opened in time for tomorrow's Anzac Day commemorations.

At the April 16 opening Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson raised the national flag and said, "today is a great celebration in time for one of the most significant events of the year - Anzac Day.

"We expect at least 400 people here for the Dawn Service on Friday and the main street will be closed for the occasion.

"Particularly significant is the signing off of this project in the 100th year since World War 1.

Mr Paterson says the Memorial Square is a nationally significant theatre in memory to the World Wars, in particular the Great War in which young men from this town lost their lives.

The signficance of the Memorial Square would provide a lasting memory to all about the involvement of not only local people, but New Zealanders as a whole who participated in the various wars and conflicts which are so well depicted here, said Katikati RSA President, Peter Sparrow.

"My hope is that young people, in particular school children will take notice of the Memorial Square and ultimately it will bring home to them the sacrifice many New Zealanders made."

Last October Mr Sparrow attended the RNZRSA National Conference in Wellington when each RSA was asked to ensure something tangible could be done to commemorate WW100.

"This Memorial Square is part of the commitment the Katikati RSA has undertaken. A number of meetings were held to finalise plans and to Blaise Williams, we extend our grateful thanks."

Tomorrow the Katikati RSA break from tradition and hold the Dawn Service at the Memorial Square instead of at the RSA.

"We have done this to recognise this wonderful Memorial Square," Peter said.

The project features three rectangle granite bars engraved with inscriptions in memory of the New Zealand troops deployed to war.

The flagpole has been repositioned from the Memorial Hall roof to the centre of the new square.

One of four 'queens' who participated in a carnival to raise funds for the hall in 1952, hall committee chair, Sally Henry, gave a brief overview of its history.

The first public meeting to discuss building a hall as a war memorial was held in 1943. By 1946 enough money had been raised to buy a section in the centre of town from the Bank of New Zealand.

"The BNZ generously gifted the adjoining section to the committee for a public hall.

The queen carnival raised 7200 pounds and the total community contribution, matched pound for pound by the Government, was 12,967 pounds.

"G W Johnston was the architect, HDR Rayment's building firm won the contract and he brought out four families from Britain to help - two of these families are represented here still. My father Harry Breed was the electrician and Johnny Hewitt, the plumber," said Sally.

Clearing, moving earth and metalling were all done by locals.

"I can honestly say this: that the Katikati War Memorial Hall - land and building - was worked for, purchased, built and furnished by the people of this district for this community to honour those who fought and those who died for our freedom."

On October 4, 1954 The Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie officially opened the hall. Further on in 1961 both side-loggias were built and in 1981 Federated Farmers led the fundraising and built on the Memorial lounge.

The Memorial Square is the first physical sign of the Katikati Town Centre Plan taking shape, which ratepayers have been contributing to via WBODPC targeted rating for the last six years.
Katikati Community Board chairman Sam Dunlop said planning for the new square began in 2005 and while its completion had been a long time in coming; "the end result was a worthy one.

In acknowledging those involved in the Memorial Square project, Sam said, "you have enhanced this place to remember - and we needed to. Some lost relations in terrible circumstances. Others lost family members, sadly old friends are diminishing in number, but people can come here and hopefully find solace and comfort."

The former Katikati Fire Station will be the next stage of the Town Centre Plan, "merely upgrading the imaginative and forward thinking work of our predecessors," said Sam.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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