War and peace in Auckland Domain
From pre-European times until after the Second World War, the Auckland Domain has been occupied by people involved in activities related to war and peace.
Parades, peace-making and troop camps have all appeared in the Domain
The Auckland Domain is a well-known memorial site with the prominent Cenotaph and War Memorial Museum taking centre stage. The Domain also has an interesting and varied history when it comes to war itself. It has been the site of battles and peace-making between Māori tribes, and later served as a parade ground and camp for troops.
Pre-European battles led to a treaty
In pre-European times, the domain was an ideal pa site for Ngāti Whātua – overlooking the Waitematā harbour and providing rich volcanic soil for gardening, irrigated by the natural spring that now feeds the duck ponds adjacent to the Wintergardens. The domain area is called Pukekawa meaning 'hill of bitter memories' and refers to tribal battles fought there between Hongi Hika, leader of the Ngapuhi from the North, and Potatau Te Wherowhero leading the local Ngāti Whātua. It was on this site that a peace treaty was eventually agreed by these two tribes in 1828.
A totara tree planted by Princess Te Puea Herangi to commemorate the battles, and the eventual settlement of the dispute, stands on Pukekaroa, a small scoria cone to the west of the museum and site of the Ngāti Whātua pa. The totara is surrounded by a carved palisade.
A military campsite and parade ground for decades
In the later part of the 19th century, the domain was often used as a camp location and public parade ground for New Zealand regiments including the 3rd Auckland Regiment. From that time and well into the 20th century the domain became the venue for much military activity.
South African War
The first contingent of volunteers for the South African War was requested to equip themselves with a rifle and a horse. When they assembled in the Domain in preparation for departure for South Africa, neat rows of bell tents showed the mustering point for soldiers and their horses.
First World War
During the First World War, the domain was a rallying place for Aucklanders. On 23 September 1914 the Auckland Regiment formally paraded there before they marched to the wharf and sailed as part of the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. More than half of the 1000 men who paraded that day were either killed or wounded at Gallipoli. The consecrated ground in front of the Museum commemorates their final departure point.
A photograph of Māori and Pacific Island soldiers marching over Grafton Bridge was taken in late November 1915 as the troops headed to the Domain for the Queen Carnival. The huge carnival raised ₤300,000 for the Wounded Soldiers’ Fund, a sizeable amount in 1915.
Between the world wars the domain continued to be used for military parades and to a lesser extent for camps. The School Cadet programme was strong during this time as the Defence Act of 1919 had introduced Compulsory Military Training (CMT) for all males from 14-21 years. Local schools such as Seddon Memorial Technical School held their annual training camps in the domain.
Second World War
The American 'friendly invasion' of New Zealand began in 1942 when the United States Marine Corps arrived to occupy the numerous camps that had been constructed for them. Barracks were built at various locations around Auckland (as well as in Wellington and Warkworth) to accommodate up to 45,000 America servicemen. A book of instruction to these visiting American troops included a cartoon joke about the phrase Down Under.
Camp Hale was one of two camps erected in the Auckland Domain for US troops. The Outer Camp was built in front of the Auckland Museum and consisted of fifteen buildings housing 750 people. The Inner Camp had eight large H-shaped dormitories, each housing 122 men. It was located near the cricket pavilion where the Auckland City Parks Department implement sheds are today. A plaque, to the west of the main entrance to the Museum, commemorates the presence of US troops there between 1942-44.
As part of New Zealand's defence precautions during World War II, a Heavy Anti -Aircraft Battery emplacement was constructed by New Zealand Army engineers in March 1943. This AA battery was part of an Auckland-wide air defence network that included sites at Mt Eden, Alexandra Park and Bayswater. It was located on the grassed area beyond the car park at the Atrium entrance to the Museum. The battery was at the highest point of the Domain.
Cite this article
War and peace in Auckland Domain. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 4 June 2015. Updated: 16 June 2015.