On June 8, 2016, I was one of the council members who voted in favour of renaming our War Memorial the Napier Conference Centre.

It was a decision made without any public consultation and one I now deeply regret.

But it was a decision made in good faith by all councillors based on the information presented to us at the time.

Leading up to the decision we were told the commercial viability of the centre was under threat due to the inclusion of the words "war memorial" in the name.


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We were told it was no longer a war memorial because the two pivotal elements, being the Eternal Flame and Roll of Honour, had been removed.

We were told the two city's two Returned and Services Association (RSA) groups were happy with the removal of these elements and their proposed relocation to Memorial Square. That statement has since been disputed by both RSAs.

Sadly there was much information we did not receive at the key decision-making points of this process. We were not told the building itself was the core element of the memorial. We were not told the whole of the site, including the forecourt, was dedicated as part of the memorial.

We were not told 40 per cent of the funding to build the war memorial came from the central Government and was given on the understanding the Napier City Council would be the guardians of the site to be preserved as a war memorial for perpetuity.

We were not told that legally binding documents were signed by the council of the time undertaking this commitment. We were not told that a further 40 per cent of the funding was raised by our community so that we might have a memorial site to honour and remember our loved ones who had been lost at war.

At the time we voted to rename our War Memorial Centre we truly did not understand the legal and, more importantly, the moral obligation we had to our community.

There has been a suggestion by some that those of us advocating for the return of the name War Memorial Centre are demanding all commercial activity be removed from the site. There is absolutely no truth to this claim and we all recognise the considerable economic value associated with having a premier conference venue in our city.

We all recognise that the centre has been used for many different commercial activities over the years including an ice-cream parlour, a restaurant and an aquarium.

However it is imperative we do not forget that the site is a war memorial first and foremost.

There has been a suggestion by some that the name War Memorial Centre will result in reduced bookings, but this has clearly been disproved by the Whanganui District Council who removed the words "conference" and "convention" from their War Memorial Centre in 2014. Bookings there have risen year on year since that time.

There has been a suggestion by some that the word conference must be included in the name of the venue for it to appear in web searches.

However the actual name of a building or in fact the website is of secondary importance to the content on the web pages. Top-ranking results for a search of "conference centre" won't necessarily include any sites with those words included in the name.

There are some who do not appear to be able to differentiate between the name of the site and the promotion of the activities within the site. There are numerous examples of buildings where the name does not include any reference to the activities which take place there.

Our very own Hawke's Bay Opera House is one such example - a venue, I might add, that appears when searching for conference facilities in Hastings.

Personally I have put my hand up and acknowledged that we got this wrong. I have offered a much-needed personal public apology.

We have treated our community and this sacred site with disrespect and returning the name War Memorial Centre is one small step towards putting things right. The next step is the reinstatement of the Eternal Flame and Roll of Honour and I look forward to seeing the design concepts for this at our June council meeting.

This has dragged on far too long and I am deeply saddened as we approach another Anzac Day without our War Memorial restored.

Now that I have a full understanding of the history of our War Memorial site I know it must be honoured and protected for the communities of our past, present and future. We will remember them.

Kirsten Wise is a Napier City councillor
All opinions are the writer's and not those of Hawke's Bay Today