Man on a mission to restore memorials

Restoration project a labour of love

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 07:09 15/02/2013
War memorials - Peter Olsen
FAITH SUTHERLAND/Fairfax NZ
Staff Sergeant Lee Ansell, left, with Peter Olsen at one of the memorials.

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A Colyton man’s mission to restore more than 60 war memorials throughout the Manawatu has been given a helping hand from Linton’s military police platoon.

Retired farmer Peter Olsen has been single-handedly scrubbing, shining and repainting memorials throughout the region and yesterday received a boost of  an extra six sets of hands to help out.

Military police Staff Sergeant Lee Ansell read about Mr Olsen’s goal to restore Manawatu’s neglected monuments to their former glory.

‘‘I was in Afghanistan last year and saw in the Manawatu Standard, which we had delivered over there, an article about Peter doing the memorials and thought what a fantastic idea,’’ Mr Ansell said.

When he returned, he rallied troops, gathered gear and got to work on the task.

‘‘The job that Peter’s doing is preserving our military culture, as well as New Zealand’s culture, it’s part of our history and we really wanted to be part of that,’’ he said.

The team ticked off monuments, plaques and plinths at Rongotea, Glen Oroua, Ohakea, Sanson, Halcombe and Cheltenham yesterday.

But there were a few more dotted between Rangiwahia, Pohangina, Feilding and Himatangi Beach still to be done.

It was not only the extra labour that was appreciated, Mr Olsen said, but the company as well.

It would also help him reach his goal of having Manawatu’s Anzac war memorials spruced up in time for the centenary of the Gallipoli landing, he said.

‘‘All of a sudden the pressure’s gone off,’’ Mr Olsen said.

On their way round the region the military police also called into schools, visiting students and teachers.

Mr Ansell said the memorials project not only provided the opportunity to help a worthy cause, but to touch base with residents too.

But the task is not done yet.

Mr Olsen plans to publish a book on the history of the memorials in the district and is keen for tips to help him with Palmerston North’s neglected war memorials and perhaps take the project nationwide.

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- Manawatu Standard

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