War veteran's descendant tells Napier council her family is 'disgusted' at treatment of war memorial

Ronda Chrystal at the Napier Conference Centre, which she believes should have retained the title Napier War Memorial ...
MARTY SHARPE

Ronda Chrystal at the Napier Conference Centre, which she believes should have retained the title Napier War Memorial Conference Centre.

A descendant of one of Napier's former Mayors and WWI veteran says she is disgusted at the city council, which she says has "desecrated the graves" of the war dead.

Napier City Council removed an eternal flame and roll of honour from the city's former War Memorial Conference Centre when it was rebuilt and renovated over the past year, after it was found to be earthquake-prone. The council later voted to remove the words 'War Memorial' from the centre's title.

Despite initially stating the memorial would remain on site, the council later said it would be moved to the western edge of the CBD.Now it's saying it may be on Marine Parade.

Former Napier Mayor, Ernest "Ron" Spriggs, pictured here late in life, led a fundraising campaign for Napier's war ...
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Former Napier Mayor, Ernest "Ron" Spriggs, pictured here late in life, led a fundraising campaign for Napier's war memorial. Spriggs died in 2000.

Ronda Chrystal, whose grandfather was Ron Spriggs, has written to the council to express her disgust.

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Second Lieutenant Charles Arnold Spriggs DCM, of Napier, was killed in action in France on October 8, 1918. He is one of ...
SUPPLIED

Second Lieutenant Charles Arnold Spriggs DCM, of Napier, was killed in action in France on October 8, 1918. He is one of more than 500 remembered on the city's Roll of Honour.

Spriggs was napier Mayor from 1950-1956 when the memorial was built, and was a veteran of WWI. The centre and memorial, opened in 1957, were funded in large part through a public fundraising campaign led by Spriggs.

It was especially poignant for the Spriggs family as Ron's brother Charles was killed in WWI and his name is among the more than 500 names appearing on the roll of honour for all wars.

Charles fought at the Somme and Passchendaele, where he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. 

Before and after Napier's conference centre lost the words 'Ware Memorial' in its title
MARTY SHARPE

Before and after Napier's conference centre lost the words 'Ware Memorial' in its title

Chrystal's letter begins by saying she and her family "are very upset and disgusted by the actions of your Council over the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre".

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"I am named after my Poppop (as we called him and spent many lovely hours with him and his friends Arthur Millar, Ron Le Quesne and Vic Walis, who were all members of the 30,000 Club, which had a big part in rebuilding and beautifying Napier's Marine Parade. They were very proud of what they achieved in times when money was scarce and especially proud of the Napier people raising the money to build the Napier War Memorial," she wrote.

"Our family and I'm sure most others whose name was on that wall, feel like you have desecrated their graves, it is like their burial place in New Zealand as their mortal bodies are buried in far off lands," she said.

Napier Conference Centre on Marine Parade. Formerly the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, Napier City councillors ...
MARTY SHARPE/STUFF

Napier Conference Centre on Marine Parade. Formerly the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, Napier City councillors voted to alter the title in 2016, by removing the words 'War Memorial'.

She went on to say the family was "very disgusted" by comments and excuses made by council members that suggested the soldiers would be proud of progress, "or that it was too hard for the public to view the memorial where it was".

"I know my grandfather Ron Spriggs would be turning in his grave at what you have done... The whole of Napier is disgusted by your arrogance in stripping the Memorial status from the building with NO public consultation," she wrote.

"You are only caretakers of that building, you don't own it, the people of Napier do... Our family would like to see the eternal flame and name plaques returned to their rightful place at the War Memorial and its name reinstated," Chrystal wrote.

The Napier War Memorial Conference Centre was built in the 1950s as a memorial to the city's war dead.
MARTY SHARPE

The Napier War Memorial Conference Centre was built in the 1950s as a memorial to the city's war dead.

A council spokeswoman declined to comment.

"We understand fully that this is an emotive issue for some and we will respond privately to this letter," she said. 

The council this week said it was looking at three viable locations for a new memorial on Marine Parade between the conference centre and the Soundshell

There was no timeframe yet on when a new memorial would be complete, but it could be prior to ANZAC day next year.

 - Stuff

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