Horses will be honoured and welcomed on Te Puna’s Anzac Day Hikoi.
And deservedly, because horses paid dreadfully in WW1 – 10,000 were taken overseas to serve in German Samoa, Gallipoli, the Middle East and the Western Front. Just four came home.
Pigeons served as well. Thirty-two of the military messengers were even decorated.
“So all birds are welcome, and dogs and children,” says hikoi organiser, Beth Bowden. “It is Te Puna’s day. It is about a whole lot of people remembering and reflecting on why we have peace.”
Remembering men with proud Te Puna names like Tangitu, Kuka, Rolleston and Faulkner. “Names you will see time and time again in rugby teams, and explicitly in this case, on memorial plaques that were erected in the memorial hall,” says Beth. Te Puna men who fought and died.
This ANZAC Day is especially significant for Te Puna. “April 25 we can commemorate 1919, the first year of peace after WW1 – as well as the centennial of the Te Puna Rugby Club. It’s no accident the two coincide.”
It’s the centennial ANZAC Day Te Puna rugby match, but it’s unclear if it’s the hundredth. “Because the war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, November 1918, and the soldiers were just being demobbed. Did they make it home again in time to form a team and play a game. It’s uncertain.”
But for as long as anyone can remember, there has been an ANZAC Day rugby match in Te Puna – this year against Rangiruru.
Beth Bowden is herself a proud, card carrying member of the Te Puna Rugby Club – “Because it’s an institution and a wonderful piece of community glue.” But it seemed odd that nothing ANZAC happened at what was the local memorial hall.
“And I thought what could be simpler than walking down Te Puna Road to the hall – a hikoi. It was 2014 and the first year of WW1.” Beth got a little funding and galvanised the district. “I said let’s find out whose forbears served. Also, if you live along or are connected to Te Puna Road, turn up and we will hear your story.”
And after a blessing at St Joseph’s Chruch they walked - three and a half kilometres down Te Puna Road to the old hall. “And there was a lovely touch,” says Beth. Because people along the way had put out war icons at the entranceways to properties. “Photos and memorabilia and the like.”
For many people in Te Puna, the hikoi was an entirely new perspective of the place where they lived.
But when they tore down the old community hall to make way for a traffic roundabout, the hikoi fizzled, there was nowhere to go to and it was all too hard.
“But now we know where the new hall will be built – on the slip road between the service station mechanic’s shop and the moveable houses depot. It’s ugly at the moment, but we have some heritage trees and it’s an historically apt site.”
And that’s where next Thursday’s ANZAC hikoi will gather at 11.30am before setting off down Te Puna Road at midday. Destination – Maramatanga Park, the Te Puna Rugby Club, a whakatau greeting or welcoming and Te Puna’s deeply symbolic ANZAC match against Arataki.
“I hope people who have never been to a Te Puna Rugby Club match will make an effort and those interested in the new hall will come along. ”And those who just want to remember and be grateful.
“We have peace for constructing buildings, forging ties, making gardens, playing games and going on hikois,” says Beth. “All those things make it worthwhile.”
And there’s room for everyone and everything on the “Building the Peace”. “Poppies, the traditional red, or purple for the animals or white for peace, medals, flags of all nations – all will make our hikoi meaningful, and help us to build a peaceable community.” They play rugby in the rain so the hikoi will be go ahead rain or shine.