Centennial - growth of New Zealand identity

Page 5 – The centenary in your area - 1940 Centennial

The 1940 Centennial in your area

Use the feature The 1940 Centennial and your own knowledge and ideas to help you complete the following activities.

The government emphasised the construction of utilitarian monuments – things that performed some public good – during the centennial. Common examples were community halls, parks, swimming pools, Plunket Rooms and roads. For the Labour government such monuments were an opportunity to promote its success in pulling New Zealand out of the Depression while at the same time illustrating the country's political and social progress. Memorials were also the biggest and most conspicuous part of the centennial celebrations, and of the £250,000 that the government committed to the centennial, £135,000 went towards local monuments and memorial celebrations. In an effort to nurture this image of national unity, the government intentionally focused the celebration of the centennial on localised efforts. Government subsidies for local celebrations were available at the rate of £1 for every £3 raised locally for approved activities.

Find out whether there is a monument relating to the 1940 Centennial your area – remember a monument can be a structure erected to commemorate people or events, or it can be an important site that is marked and preserved as public property.

Local councils will probably have an archive of some sort, and your local library will be another useful place to start looking.

  1. Investigate how your local community participated in the 1940 centenary.
  2. What utilitarian monuments were constructed?
  3. What was the thinking behind the monument constructed in your area?
  4. What images can you find of the monuments constructed in your area?
  5. What about contemporary images (if they still exist)? 
  6. How was the decision made about what to do to commemorate the centenary in your area?
  7. Is there evidence of dissent about those decisions?
  8. What would be an appropriate monument for your community today to recognise its past and progress?
How to cite this page

'The centenary in your area - 1940 Centennial', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/ncea-level-2-history/the-centenary-in-your-area, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Aug-2014