The 1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque at Pukeahu was unveiled by the Prime Minister and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern on 6 November 2019.

Dr Geoffrey Rice, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Canterbury and Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern unveil the Influenza memorial plaque. Photo credit: Mark Tantrum Photography.

In 1918 New Zealand lost around 9,000 people to the deadly influenza pandemic that swept the globe at the end of the First World War. Most deaths occurred in a short period between October and December 1918. No event has killed so many New Zealanders in such a short time.

The Memorial Plaque at Pukeahu remembers those who lost their lives and acknowledges the health professionals and large numbers of volunteers who risked their lives to care for the sick. It also recognises how the tragedy has helped to shape modern approaches to infectious disease management and surveillance.

Initiated as a joint project between the Ministry for Culture and Heritage - Manatū Taonga and the Ministry of Health, the memorial plaque is situated in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre.

This location was selected for its association with the First World War and its proximity to other sites connected with the pandemic and specifically Pacific Island countries. The Pacific Islands Memorial was unveiled on the adjacent terrace in 2021.  

Image of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque situated in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Pukehu Education Centre. Photo credit : Mark Tantrum Photography.

Designed by Neil Pardington and Wraight & Associates, the memorial features a graphic representation of the scale of the pandemic’s impact across New Zealand regions from north to south.

The pandemic struck the military camps hard while about 2500 Māori died, a death rate seven times higher than for non-Māori.

The plaque’s zinc appearance recalls the zinc sulphate inhalation sprayers used to treat people during the pandemic. The stencilled form of the text references the labelling on medical supply crates.

Some 50 people attended the unveiling including Dr Geoffrey Rice, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Canterbury and author of the book Black November: The 1918 Influenza Pandemic in New Zealand. The ceremony included a short performance from the play Black November, created and directed by Kerryn Palmer.

Related links

1918 Influenza Pandemic Memorial Plaque unveiled today

NZHistory -  The 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Ministry of Health - New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan: A framework for action

Updated on 3rd November 2021