Good things take time on the West Coast, and they are usually done with a twist when they finally happen.

For example, bribery is not unheard of. Such as the "fine bottle of whisky" Tasman police superintendent Grant O'Fee gave Henry Growcott to persuade him to unveil a memorial yesterday, built for those slain by New Zealand's first mass murderer, Stanley Graham.

The monument had taken 63 years to come about, which was why 89-year-old Mr Growcott, one of the locals called in to search for Graham, took some convincing.


"Too long, really. Should have happened a long time ago," he said.

Graham shot dead seven men, including four police officers, during his 13-day rampage at his farm and in the bush behind Kowhitirangi, 25km inland from Hokitika.

Mr Growcott was there the night Graham was shot by James Quirke. The gunman had already broken into the Growcott family home to steal food, "so we were all interested in bringing him down".

Graham's rage changed the community, which had just sent many of its young men to war.

"People locked the doors. I'd never heard of the likes of it - I didn't even think most doors had locks on them," Mr Growcott said.

The memory of Graham crumpling when he was felled in a valley beside Mt Doughboy remains "clear as a bell" in Mr Growcott's mind.

The cows alerted the hunters. They had smelled Graham moving down the valley and "started making a fair bit of a racket. So we had a look through the binoculars and, sure enough, it was him coming out for a feed, I suppose".

Graham was shot after being told to surrender.

He died that night in hospital.

Of the 200 people gathered yesterday to see the 3m stone memorial unveiled at Kowhitirangi, about 25 were relatives of the slain.

One victim, schoolteacher George Ridley, was represented by his son George, grandson Geoff and great-grandson George. James Quirke's wife had travelled from Taumarunui and a daughter and son of home guardsman Gregory Hutchison came from Canterbury. Mr Hutchison's daughter, Ann Wilson, was 18 months old when her father was killed.

Yesterday, she learned for the first time that her father had earned the War Service Medal for his Home Guard service - medals the Army will present to her.

She was initially dubious about the memorial.

"I thought it was too long [ago], and that we should just let the whole thing lie. But I'm so glad ... It was so moving and this news is incredible."

It was not just the relatives of victims who received a mention. Environment Minister Marian Hobbs' father was shot at while reporting on the manhunt.

Retired policeman Barry Thomson, who created the memorial, said he was overwhelmed by the number of people at the unveiling. His grandparents knew slain policeman Edward Best.

"My grandmother would say to me when I left for work, 'Do a good day's work, son, and remember Ted Best'. I never forgot that."

The hunt for Stanley Graham

Stanley Graham, 40, a crack shot and expert bushman, was an incompetent farmer on the verge of bankruptcy.

By October 1941, he was deluded and paranoid, convinced his cattle were being poisoned and his milk and cream sabotaged.

When police responded to a complaint, he shot three of them in cold blood, gathered food and guns and disappeared into the bush, sparking a manhunt that became part of New Zealand history.