Once a leap year? Dates for New Zealand Wars national day canvassed
Politicians discussed dates of commemoration for the 19th-century Land Wars during a petition hearing for the national day of recognition.
The idea to have it once every leap year on 29 February was floated, after the Maori Affairs select committee heard from the two student petitioners bringing forward the case.
Waimarama Anderson, 17, and Leah Bell, 16, told MPs on Wednesday that more was needed to educate Kiwis about their history. The students were part of a host of Otorohanga youth bringing a petition of more than 13,000 signatures in support of the cause to the members.
NZ First MP Pita Paraone said a suggestion was made to him of commemorating the event once every leap year. His iwi in the north gathered every year to mark the battle of Ruapekapeka Pa which took place in 1845.
Labour MP Peeni Henare said it "made a lot of sense" so that the national day wouldn't detract from the individual significant battles remembered in different parts of the country.
"It would allow rohe, or region, iwi or hapu, to do their own things for the three years in between," Henare said.
"It also allows for a day where nobody could have a fight or take issue. And upon reflection, that was a pretty clever little idea actually."
The petitioners believed the date would have to be discussed among politicians in conjunction with the Iwi Chairs Forum.
But Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the committee wanted "to ensure that the rangatahi (youth) voice in the discussion is not lost".
Leah Bell said the concept was likely to be discussed at the Youth Parliament week in July.
The petition for the national day was part of a wider push by the students to add more education about the wars into the school curriculum.
Historians estimated close to 3000 people died during the wars, with Maori accounting for more than 75 per cent.
But the day was not just about Maori, said Bell and Anderson. The encouraging feedback they had received came from people of many cultural backgrounds, and they believed it was not just a Maori issue.
"We understand that this is a difficult topic for some people," said Bell, but Kiwis should "learn to share our stories instead of suppressing them".
The national day would create "a lot more of a united feeling," she said.
The select committee chair Tutehounuku Korako said they looked forward to hearing more submissions from other organisations and government agencies, such as the Ministry of Education. The committee would then have to report back to Parliament on their decision.