Located at Auckland's Bastion Point, the memorial to Michael Joseph Savage, New Zealand's first Labour prime minister (1935-1940) overlooks the Waitemata Harbour. Like the Massey Memorial in Wellington, it is built on the site of a former gun emplacement dating from the 'Russian Scare' of the 1880s.
Image of the Savage Memorial. Photo by Jock Phillips.
The design stems from a competition announced by the Labour government in February 1941. Tibor Donner and Anthony Bartlett, Auckland architects, won the prize for the memorial's design: a mausoleum and obelisk made of pre-cast concrete, flanked by Oamaru stone and Dunedin quartz. Originally their plans included a statue on the top of the obelisk symbolising the 'working man'. Officials found the statue too ostentatious, however, and the finished memorial has a bronze Madonna by the prominent sculptor Richard Gross. Donner and Bartlett also designed the surrounding memorial reserve, which features a sunken garden and a reflective pool marked off by hedges and flower-beds.
Despite some public concern that the memorial was an extravagance in wartime, work was begun by Fletcher Construction in June 1941 and completed by March the following year. The New Zealand Labour Party met the costs of the mausoleum, estimated at £4000. Peter Fraser's government paid for the surrounding memorial park. The memorial was officially opened in March 1943. Initial public interest in the site amazed officials, and it continues to attract both overseas and local visitors today.
Until 1993 the mausoleum contained a number of personal items related to Savage's life. Unfortunately the threat of vandalism led to their removal to the Auckland City Library, where they remain in storage.
For inquires about using the Memorial grounds, contact the Auckland Council.
Updated on 13th September 2019