Date to be set for a national day to commemorate the New Zealand Wars

A national holiday will be created to remember the New Zealand land wars of the 1800s.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

A national holiday will be created to remember the New Zealand land wars of the 1800s.

The battle for a day to commemorate the New Zealand Wars has been won - now, all they need to do is set a date.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English made the announcement on Friday during the return of the Rangiriri battlesite to Maori at Turangawaewae.

The historic site was handed back at the 10th anniversary celebrations of Maori King Tuheitia's reign.

Rahui Papa, the spokesman for Maori King Tuheitia, said the announcement of the day was absolutely fantastic.
REBEKAH PARSONS-KING/FAIRFAX NZ

Rahui Papa, the spokesman for Maori King Tuheitia, said the announcement of the day was absolutely fantastic.

King Tuheitia's spokesman, Rahui Papa, said the announcement was absolutely fantastic and the result of a lot of hard work.

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He said representatives for the battle sites met with Te Ururoa Flavell, the minister of Maori development, seven weeks ago.

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd wants to see the history of the wars taught in schools.
ROBERT CHARLES/FAIRFAX NZ

New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd wants to see the history of the wars taught in schools.

"He actually wanted to progress a bit quicker than this, to be able to announce the date at the coronation celebrations," Papa said.

"But unfortunately people had to go home and seek mandate for things like that so we're going to have to have it post coronation."

Work was underway to determine the day best suited for the celebrations.

The announcement was made during 10th anniversary celebrations of Maori King Tuheitia's reign.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

The announcement was made during 10th anniversary celebrations of Maori King Tuheitia's reign.

"One of the things they are asking to consider is it does not clash with any particular battle site commemorations, so that it can be a clean and stand alone date and then people can have their commemorations on their dates free and clear of any hinderances," Papa said.

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June, September and October seemed to be "fairly clear", he said, and "everyone would likely prefer a warmer month".

A decision around the date was expected before the end of the year.

Creating a specific day to remember the Land Wars would lead to more people exploring what it meant.

"Prior to Anzac Day, not a lot of people knew about Anzac Cove," Papa said.

"It was actually off the armed services creating the national statutory holiday for Anzac Day that there was more promotion, that more generation of information was put out.

"We're sincerely hoping it will heighten exospore to all of that sort of korero and there will be a whole lot more information and a whole lot more connection and engagement with our various communities on these battle sites."

In March, the Ministry of Education refused to include the New Zealand Wars in the national curriculum, but Papa said the national day was step in the right direction and the fight wasn't over.

"Just like the return of Rangiriri, we've waited for 152 years, so iwi are forever," he said.

"So we'll chip away and chip away until there is an awakening, I suppose, so we can get our local history into our local curriculum."

New Plymouth Mayor and staunch Maori supporter Andrew Judd welcomed the announcement.

"It will allow us to heal and move forward as a nation with greater empathy for each other," he said.

Judd, who unsuccessfully pushed for Maori wards to be instated on to the New Plymouth District Council in 2015, said he hoped the day would lead to more acceptance around what had happened.

"You can't keep our actions of our past under the carpet," he said.

"If you don't know the stuff, how on earth do you have any concept of who we are?"

He said New Zealand's role in wars overseas was well documented and known, but that was not the case when it came to wars fought locally.

"If you don't know where you've come from, how are going to know where you're heading and how are you going to make sure you don't repeat those mistakes?" he said.

"Even America acknowledges its civil war sites and its civil war battles."

He said he, too, was keen to see the history of the New Zealand Wars taught in schools and wanted that expanded to include the Treaty of Waitangi.

"We're still in a form of conflict by not understanding the Treaty," he said.

Judd, who has described himself as a recovering racist, faced strong criticism and abuse around the Maori wards issue.

"This is a beginning for those conversations to be had. It's something that I have a passion for," he said.

In June, the New Plymouth District Council purchased the Te Kohia pa site where the first shot of the Taranaki Land Wars was fired, on March 17, 1860.

Judd said picking any one day to commemorate the wars would be hard.

"There were so many skirmishes that happened, you would want it to be something that was appropriate and sacred and authentically meaningful for all," he said.

 - Stuff

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