In 1918, it’s estimated about 9000 people died as a result of lethal influenza pandemic, with greatest loss of life occurring between October and December.

The event was New Zealand’s largest scale public health crisis. No other event has claimed so many New Zealand lives in such a short time. It had a significant impact on New Zealand society.

The pandemic is closely linked with the end of the First World War. More than half as many New Zealanders died from influenza in three months as died while serving during the four years of the war.

There are a number of commemorative projects and events happening to recognise the enormous loss of life and effect on New Zealand.

The experience of the pandemic varied across different communities, regions and ethnic groups. About 2500 Māori died, a death rate eight times that for non-Māori.

This commemoration also acknowledges the impact the pandemic had on Western Samoa, including New Zealand’s role in the arrival of influenza, which resulted in the death of one quarter of Western Samoa’s population.

Find out more about the 1918 influenza pandemic on the NZ History website.

Influenza memorial plaque

The government is planning to install a memorial plaque at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington in mid 2019. More information will be available when details are finalised.

Past projects

Public history talk: Influenza and Western Samoa

When: Wednesday 3rd October
What time: 12.10pm to 1pm.
Where: Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library Building, corner of Molesworth and Aitken Streets, Thorndon, Wellington.

We organised for Ryan McLane to give a public history talk about influenza and Western Samoa.

Ryan has managed a public health unit in the Alaskan arctic, led a clinical team in an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone, and provided direct care for populations as diverse as indigenous Siberians, undocumented agricultural workers in California, populations impacted by cyclones in the Pacific, and civilians caught in civil conflict in Guatemala.

In New Zealand he has worked with the Ministry of Health, the Southern District Health Board and the University of Otago Medical School. His PhD with the University of Otago focused upon the 1918 influenza pandemic in the Samoas, Tonga, and Fiji.

These free public history talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Most are recorded and will be available online at:

Contemporary dance piece: 1918 - November

A contemporary dance piece titled ‘1918’ performed was performed by Le Moana Dance Company in November 2018. 

7 November 2018 - Pukeahu National War Memorial Park
10 November 2018 - Te Papa

The dance was commissioned as part of the WW100 centenary programme. It commemorates the centenary of the New Zealand ship the Talune arriving in Samoa, carrying influenza, which resulted in a huge loss of life for the island nation.

Te Papa Quiz: The 1918 influenza pandemic

No event has killed so many New Zealanders in such a short time. But how much do you know about it? Take Te Papa's quiz here

Remembering Armistice: The Influenza Pandemic – Film and Panel Talk

Te Papa held a documentary screening and discussion marking the centenary of the 1918 flu outbreak ­– an epidemic that devastated New Zealand and Sāmoa. Talune: The ship of death is a 30-minute documentary looking into a little known event in Sāmoa and Aotearoa's history 100 years ago, when a quarter of the Sāmoan population died in a preventable influenza epidemic under New Zealand's watch. Through a series of re-enactments and interviews, the piece explores the extraordinary events around the bureaucratic bungle that caused so many deaths, and the impact this event had on Sāmoa for the century to come.

Karori Cemetery project

Many who lost their lives to influenza in 1918 are buried at the Karori Cemetery in Wellington. Their graves have mostly been untended or forgotten. A project started in 2016 to restore the grave sites, and to research and remember those who died during the pandemic.

The project will be complete in November 2018 to align with the centenary commemoration of the influenza pandemic. A digital story book is being developed that will help to guide walks of the cemetery. There will also be 150 stories online about those who died.

Find out more about the commemoration programme and the project on the 1918 Influenza Karori Cemetery Website.

Christchurch Heritage Week pandemic-related events – October

Christchurch City Council hosted pandemic-related events as part of Beca Heritage Week on 12 to 22 October 2018.

Find out more on the Christchurch City Council website.

Auckland Heritage Week pandemic-related events – September/ October

Auckland City Council hosted pandemic-related events as part of Auckland’s Heritage Week on 29 September to 14 October 2018.

Find out more on the Auckland Heritage Festival website.



Updated on 1st April 2019