Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

World War II Pacific Islands Coastwatchers finally receive recognition

The first unveiling of a plaque in New Zealand for a Cook Islands coastwatcher, Pu Banaba, took place in O’Neill’s Point Cemetery, Bayswater. Photo: NZDF

A long-awaited act of recognition will be bestowed upon Second World War coastwatchers at a ceremony at Government House in Wellington, on Tuesday 2 July.

Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro,will present families of 25 Pacific Islands coastwatchers along with those of five Post and Telegraph Department coastwatchers with these certificates recognising their relations’ service.

As well as almost 150 family members, those in attendance will include Acting Chief of Navy, Commodore Andrew Brown, Cook Islands Consul General, Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, and a representative from NZ Post.

During the war, a network of civilians and military personnel kept watch 24/7 for enemy aircraft and ships from stations in New Zealand and other Pacific Islands.

These stations became very dangerous places as Japanese forces advanced into the Pacific; 17 New Zealand coastwatchers and five other Allied prisoners were executed by Japanese personnel on Tarawa in 1942. A small number of New Zealand coastwatchers also became prisoners of war, including one who died in captivity.

But for decades, civilian Pacific Islands coastwatchers did not receive the same recognition as their New Zealand counterparts.

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