Earthquake Memorial Service

Friday 3 February, 12noon to 1pm

Survivors of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake were acknowledged as important to the story of our city, during a civic service at the Cathedral on Friday 3 February.

The video of the service is available here on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

The civic service was held on the date of the earthquake.  It was an opportunity for our community and visitors to recall a pivotal event in the history of Hawke’s Bay, and honour the 256 people who died and more than 400 who were injured.  Families were displaced and the quake dramatically changed our cities, including the original Cathedral on our site which was reduced to rubble with loss of life.

Dean Di Woods welcomed the small group of earthquake survivors who attended in person, and congregation, which included Napier Councillors, Chair of the Regional Council, Council staff and Emergency Management leadership, plus those who were watching online.  She began the service by ringing the Veronica Ball, a taonga of the city.  

A representative of the city council’s kaumatua opened the service with a karakia in te reo before Bishop of Waiapu Andrew Hedge welcomed everyone.  Mayor Kirsten Wise spoke of the resilience of the survivors and how their stories are important in the history of the city and region.  

Dean Di Woods and Lt Cmdr Paul Eady from the Navy lead a time of remembrance. Paul Eady explained the importance of the Veronica Bell, the ship’s bell from the NZ Navy vessel HMS Veronica which was in port and responded immediately after the quake to assist the people of Napier.  He then rang the ‘Eight Bells’ twice – once to stand down a watch, and the second time to start a new watch.

Mrs Marwa Mostafa from the Muslim community was invited to read a passage from the Koran titled ‘The Earthquake’ – “when the earth will be shaken with a mighty shaking” – which was translated from Arabic by Miss Syeda Batool Naqvi.

Bishop Andrew Hedge lead a reflection about the compassion shown in 1931 and how we all can care for each other in times of disaster.

The Cathedral Choir and organ lead the congregation in familiar hymns for the occasion, ending with the Arohanui Blessing (words by NZ Author Joy Cowley, and tune by the former Dean of the Cathedral Ian Render).

Following the service the earthquake survivors and guests enjoyed an afternoon tea, which for many years was a well-attended event at Napier Boys High School.  With fewer survivors, this has been incorporated into the memorial service as an opportunity for our very special elderly people to meet and chat.  

A tradition from the afternoon tea has been the cutting of a cake by the oldest and youngest survivors.  This year 101 year old Audrey Densham laughed with the youngest 91 year old John Clark and Mayor Kirsten Wise as they cut the cake.