Gilbert Islands Coast Watchers Memorial

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Sarah Rothwell

A memorial wall commemorating the NZ, British and Australian Coast Watchers who were executed on the Gilbert Islands (Kiribati) during WWII, and which was designed by Jasmax’s Landscape Architecture team, was today unveiled in a ceremony at Wellington’s New Zealand Post House.

The memorial wall, which has been designed as part of the redevelopment of NZ Post’s Wellington premises, takes a prominent place at the forefront of the plaza. It has been installed in recognition of the 17 New Zealand volunteers – 10 soldiers and seven Post and Telegraph Department men – who were stationed at the Island’s coast watcher’s posts on 15 October 1942, when they were brutally killed by invading Japanese forces. An 18th died soon after.

The wall was unveiled by the last surviving Gilbert Island’s Coast Watcher, John Jones, and Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae.

Incorporating the ocean, weather and skies, the design captures the sense of edgeless-ness and vulnerability of life on the Gilbert Islands, realised through the wall’s shifting shadow effects and choice of weathered materials. A raised sloping bed contains pohutukawas which, when grown, will tie-in with the Memorial wall, while the plaza’s paving reflects the ocean tide.

The Memorial, and surrounding plaza, has been designed in consultation with the victims’ families and Ministry departments to reflect a place of remembrance, ceremony and respect.

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