Moutoa Gardens in Whanganui is a relatively modest public reserve on Taupo Quay by the river, immediately to the east of Pukenamu Queens Park. Somewhat unusual in NZ, it has prominent monuments which celebrate victories by colonial Europeans and Māori allies over various rebel groups around the wider region.
The larger bronze cast monument commemorating Pūtiki chief Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (‘Major Kemp’) comes complete with detailed battle descriptions of four of his battles. The smaller monument commemorates allied Māori who died in the battle of Moutoa Island on the Whanganui River in 1864, which purportedly saved the colonial town from a rebel attack.
The Gardens were the centre of a major Māori land rights protest in the mid 1990s, during which another statue, of colonial prime minister John Balance, was beheaded. Now just the base survives. One of the outcomes of the protest was the renaming of Wanganui to Whanganui (both are still accepted). In addition, the pre-colonial heritage of the site as Pākaitore Pā has now been recognised.
On a lighter note, there are several beautiful mature pōhutukawa trees around the park and a lovely statue of a girl and her younger brother.