Wars and disputes

The waterfront area was the scene of troop departures for the Boer War, the arrival of US marines in World War II, and the infamous 1951 waterfront union and management dispute.

1897 photo Maori contingent, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Photographed at Wellington before departing for London.
1897: Māori Contingent at Wellington before departing for London

Troops going to the Boer War

New Zealand troops left from the waterfront to fight in the Boer War.

The South African War of 1899−1902, often called the Boer War, was the first overseas conflict to involve New Zealand troops.

The war was fought between the British Empire and the Boer South African Republic (Transvaal) and its Orange Free State ally.

Hundreds of New Zealand men applied to serve in the contingent and on 21 October 1899 they were given a rousing send-off on Wellington's waterfront as they left to join the fight.

A memorial to those who fought in the Boer War was set up at their departure point on the outer-T of Queens Wharf. 

The imposing Victorian ironwork gates that mark the entrance to Queens Wharf were created to mark the departure of the second New Zealand contingent to the Boer War.

The wording on the commemorative plaque reads:

From Queen's Wharf on 21 October 1989, 215 men of the first contingent embarked for the South African War aboard the SS Waiwera - the first of more than 250,000 New Zealand men and women to serve their country in overseas wars in the following century.

This plaque was unveiled by His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir Michael Hardie Boys GNZM, GCMG, Governor-General of New Zealand 21 October 1999.

South African War 1899−1902 − NZ History Online

Arrival of the US marines

World War II spread to the Pacific in December 1941 when Japanese bombers attacked the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour. This brought US forces to New Zealand 6 months later in June 1942 with troops arriving in Auckland and marines in Wellington.

1942: First Arrival of US Marines

1951 Waterfront dispute

A wage dispute between the waterside workers union and management resulted in a lock-out of union members from the wharves, which then came to a standstill.

1951: Waterfront Lockout