A Wairarapa village is being promoted as the new Gallipoli, with pilgrims urged to stay home to remember our fallen Anzac soldiers.
The air force is behind the drive to bring thousands of people to Tinui, where our first Anzac memorial service was held in 1916, for Anzac Day commemorations. It comes as warnings continue over the safety and security of the tens of thousands who go to Turkey each year.
The commanding officer of pilot training at Ohakea, Paul Stockley, hopes thousands will head to the site. "We see this as an opportunity for young New Zealanders to start a tradition here. While there is always Gallipoli, it was Tinui that had the world's first Anzac day service.
"With our support and promotion from this year onwards, hopefully over the years it becomes more and more recognised and could see thousands choose Tinui over ... Gallipoli."
Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins, who will travel to Gallipoli next week, said Tinui held a special place in Anzac history. "I would be delighted to see Tinui become a place where people come to pay their respects and remember those who have fallen."
Senior air force commander Shaun Clarke said 70 personnel would attend a service at Tinui this Anzac Day on April 25, with an advanced party of flag bearers, bugler, firing party and a flyover during the service.
In material sent to homes and schools in the central North Island, a message has been: "If you can't make it to Gallipoli, make it to Tinui."
Returned and Services Association president Robin Klitscher said though the move should be applauded, it was wrong to single out one site as the focus for commemorations.
"That is not what it is about. It is about people recognising their own communities and to go to Gallipoli on Anzac Day or any other day is part of that also."
In 1916, the Rev Basil Ashcroft held the first Anzac Day commemoration in the Tinui church, before leading villagers to the top of Mt Maunsell, or Tinui Taipo as it is known locally, to erect a permanent memorial.
That cross became the first Anzac memorial in New Zealand and stood on the hilltop for nearly 50 years before an aluminium cross replaced it in 1965. Forty-eight people from the village died in the two world wars.
For nearly two years, the village of just 16 houses has battled to have the site recognised by the Government and the world. The Historic Places Trust will consider funding to investigate registration next month.
- The Dominion Post