Big crowd expected for unveiling

00:59, Sep 17 2011

VIPs are expected to descend on Nelson for the unveiling of the 28th (Maori) Battalion waharoa or gateway sculpture at Anzac Park.

The monument to members of the battalion with roots in Te Tau Ihu is being carved by master carver Mark Davis in his workshop at Whakatu Marae.

It will be unveiled during a dawn ceremony on Saturday, September 24.

Nelson City Council kaihautu (leader for iwi affairs) Geoff Mullen said Governor-General and former Defence Force chief Sir Jerry Mateparae would be at the ceremony.

Mr Mullen said representatives from the Italian Embassy and Italian rugby team management would also be there.

He was still waiting to hear if Defence Force chief Major General Richard Rhys Jones was coming.

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Mr Mullen said there were very few 28th (Maori) Battalion veterans still alive, but some might make it to the ceremony, depending on their health.

He expected about 500 to 700 people, including descendants of soldiers, coming from Hastings, Otaki and Wellington.

There is currently no monument in Te Tau Ihu acknowledging the soldiers' contribution to New Zealand's war effort.

Local iwi are inviting Nelson men and their sons to join them in a group haka during the waharoa's unveiling.

Mike Elkington, who was behind the giant Guinness World Record haka attempt at Tahunanui Beach last year, has arranged public practices. There was to be a session today at the Victory Community Centre, with others on September 21 (location TBA) and September 23 (Whakatu Marae), all from 5pm to 7pm. The dawn ceremony will start at 5am on September 24.

The Nelson Mail