History and Heritage

Sacrifice and Honour 

Like many small communities in New Zealand, when the call to arms came, the men of Hurunui were quick to answer. 

Local farm boys, along with their horses, were among the first sent to South Africa, as members of the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry (CYC), after Richard Seddon offered a contingent of mounted rifles to fight during the Boer War of 1899-1902

Still more local lads would see service during the Great War as members of the Canterbury Mounted Rifle Regiment – sent first to Egypt, then, forced to leave their horses behind spearheading some of the toughest attacks on Gallipoli before joining the Desert Mounted Corps.

20 years later when New Zealand again rallied, local farmer Charles Upham would become the only combat soldier ever to win the Victoria Cross and bar – returning home to farm at Conway Flat the most highly decorated commonwealth soldier of the conflict.

The Three Grandmothers 

These three predominant limestones, mounted appropriately outside Hurunui’s District Council, were not intended to represent the centre of this community, rather and more so, to represent a past community that was once the centre of this District.

 The iconic exhibit originates from rock drawings in the Weka Pass, North Canterbury and is symbolic of the three grandmothers who were the original family of Waitaha. Metaphorically – the three star nations of Waitaha.

Warren Thompson – was the conducer for carving out the identity of the Waitaha Statues each with its own portrayed feminine form.

Farmer, teacher, social reformer, peace activist, writer

Rewi Alley 1897 – 1987

Like thousands of other young New Zealand men, Rewi Alley served overseas during the First World War. On his return he took up sheep farming but in 1927 (aged 48) he left the land and New Zealand “to go and have a look at the Chinese revolution”. He would stay for sixty years and become one of China’s best known and best loved foreigners, helping found the Association of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (INDUSCO), commonly known by the slogan Alley coined, “Gung Ho/Work Together” – a slogan now in common English usage. 

Alley established technical training schools and self-supporting industrial co-operatives, which created employment for workers, while continuing production to support resistance against the invading Japanese. 

Both the New Zealand and Chinese Governments continue to honour Alley for his work

The Kowai Archive 

Established in 1990, the Kowai Archives is located in the former Kowai County Council building in Balcairn, whose formal facade symbolises the importance of local government in the community. Inside are two marble war memorial plaques, reminders of the sacrifices made for freedom and peace by Kowai residents in the 20th century's two world wars. 

The Archive also has responsibility for the Cob Cottage in Chamberlain Park, Amberley that houses a collection of furnishings and clothing used by the Kowai's early residents.