Hera's Memorial (Te Puke)
In 1921 Hera’s memorial was unveiled at the eastern end of the township. Due to road widening it was moved in 1937 to ‘middle of the entrance of Jubilee Park, near the bowling green’. Te Puke did not get its Great War Memorial until the 1960s though local Maori fundraised and made many approaches for one throughout the 1920s.
In May 1918 as part of nationwide Red Cross Society fundraising ‘to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded’, a Queen Carnival was held in the Te Puke district.
Queen Carnivals were a uniquely New Zealand fundraising scheme which began in 1914 and continued into the 1970s. Committees picked a queen contestant to represent their area, and to raise as much money as possible for a desired goal – often patriotic but as happened in Te Puke in the 1950s, for a War Memorial Hall. The winner, who had raised the most money was pronounced queen in a coronation ceremony at the end of the carnival. In the 1918 Te Puke carnival, fundraising included daily produce stalls, nightly social dances, garden parties, raffles and competitions. Farmers also donated stock for their contestant.
The May 1918 carnival queens, their district and colours were;
- Mrs George Mends Paengaroa and Pongakawa Orange
- Mrs James McKee Te Puke Red
- Mrs H A Vercoe Papamoa Green and White
- Miss Hera (Sarah) Takuira Maori Queen Blue
The state of the poll was notified at noon each day by the hoisting of a coloured flag. Final polling closed at 9pm on Saturday 25 May with much last minute rivalry between the committees. The town was invaded with residents and visitors and the excitement was high. At 10.30pm the Red Queen, Mrs James McKee was declared the eventual winner and a total of £3876 [approx. NZD$365,000 in 2016] was raised from the value of the votes and another £1354 [approx. NZD$130,000 in 2016] was raised by the stock drive.
Just on a month later, on 29 June 1918 the Maori Queen contestant Hera Takuira of Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Whakahemo, died from influenza. She was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Takuira Mita and had been a first day pupil at the Pukehina School. Her tangi was held at Maketu. “It is sad to remember how ill she was even then, and yet how bravely she went through the tiring ceremonies, just to please her people and help the Red Cross”.
Shortly afterwards the Te Puke Town Board were approached by her relatives for permission to erect a memorial in the main street to Hera, but in late August a deputation of local Maori protested against the memorial being erected in the township as she was not a descendant of any of the five tribes of the Te Puke district. They however felt that all efforts should instead be concentrated on raising a memorial to the fallen soldiers.
In 1921 Hera’s memorial was unveiled at the eastern end of the township. Due to road widening it was moved in 1937 to ‘middle of the entrance of Jubilee Park, near the bowling green’. Te Puke did not get its Great War Memorial unt