Herewini Whakarua left his Waitotara home for the battlefields of Europe over a century ago never to return.

He became a hero, achieving the rank of sergeant major in the Maori Battalion before he was fatally wounded in Belgium.

The world will soon know his story thanks to Whanganui film makers Kevin Double and Melita Farley.

Set In Stone tells the story of the restoration of Herewini Whakarua's marble likeness and the WWI monument it stands on at Pakaitore/Moutua Gardens in Whanganui.


The monument is dedicated to all Maori who fought for king and country and its restoration began in 2013.


By happy coincidence, Mr Double and Ms Farley were taking a stroll one day and got chatting to stonemason Marco Buerger who was working on the restoration.

The conversation led to contact with Pakaitore Historic Reserve Board and set in motion a film which has recorded the restoration and surrounding stories.

Set in Stone has now been selected from hundreds of world-wide entries for the Doc Edge International Documentary Festival and will have its world premiere in Wellington on May 16.

"Filming began on the evening of Anzac day 2014 and exactly a year later, we shot the final footage," says Mr Double.

Production work on the film was completed last April 25 which is also Mr Double's birthday.

"It would have made for wonderful symmetry if we held the first public screening here on this Anzac Day but the Doc Edge selection means it has to happen in Wellington'" he says.

Pakaitore Historic Reserve Board became associate producers for the film and board member Jay Rerekura offered to act as narrator after he watched a preview of Mr Double's footage.

The film includes unscripted contributions from Herewini Whakarua's descendants Virginia Sullivan and Virginia Hina and many local people including late Whanganui District Councillor Rangi Wills who features in both the opening and closing scenes.

"We have dedicated the film to Rangi and to poet Rore Habib who also died before the film was completed," says Mr Double.

Habib wrote the poem Soldier Boy about Herewini Whakarua and gave it to artist Janet Grubner who donated it for use in the film.

"The way that everyone worked together in a respectful, muticultural way was just wonderful," says Ms Farley.

Read more

War just part of memorials' story

Video: Herewini Whakarua

There were many serendipitous moments during the making of the film and one of them led to the inclusion of a segment shot in Belgium.

"I got chatting to a guy in Belgium because he had recently bought the same camera that I use," says Mr Double.

"I found out that he lived near the cemetery where Herewini is buried."

Koen De Witte was then able to provide footage of the young soldier's grave at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium.

Set in Stone will have its world premiere at Roxy Cinema, Wellington on Tuesday, May 16 at 6.15pm followed by further screenings in Wellington and Auckland.

There will be two special screenings in Whanganui on Saturday June 10 at 2pm and 4.30pm at the Confluence boutique cinema, level 3, 15 Watt Street.
Visit or call 06 2813474 for more information.