Demand grows for recognition of land wars

6:47 pm on 8 December 2015

Demand is growing for a public holiday to mark the New Zealand land wars.

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Hundreds of people gathered at Parliament in Wellington today to support a petition being handed over to politicians calling for a national day to commemorate the conflicts.

Almost 3000 people died in the conflicts between government forces and Māori, most of whom were Māori.

It is estimated about 1,000,000ha of land was taken by the Crown in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Otorohanga College students in Waikato spearheaded the petition which was presented with 12,000 signatures.

Waimarama Anderson was one of three students from Otorohanga College who presented the signatures.

"We want to remember what happened in New Zealand and all the pakanga [battles]. Blood was shed. It made us who we are today," he said.

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry along with Green MP Marama Davidson and Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta received the petition.

Ms Anderson said she was proud of herself and everyone who came along to support the cause.

One of today's kaikōrero (speakers) Paraone Gloyne called for the conflicts to be marked with a public holiday, not just a day of remembrance.

He said a public holiday would affect what was taught in schools and embed the history of the Māori land wars in the curriculum, for future generations to learn.

"You know when it's Anzac Day, all of our schools learn about it. Does anyone learn about Guy Fawkes? No. We shouldn't even have Guy Fawkes Day."

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Waiāriki Māori Women's Welfare League head Materoa Dodd wants a public holiday, too.

"The Māori wars are so significant, yet they are undervalued and not mentioned at all in our history."

She said all of the overseas wars were important but the wars here have been neglected.

Shane Te Ruki, who travelled from Ōtaki, said it was about the entire country acknowledging New Zealand's history.

"For all of us to take note of the sacrifice that our tūpuna gave in defending their lands, their rights, their homes, their loved ones and their way of living. So that we might be who we are and continue as we are."

The Māori King's daughter, Ngāwaihonoitepō Paki, said it was a cause for everyone.

"We all should contribute to our culture because without Māori, I don't think New Zealand would have a special thing about New Zealand."

Prime Minister John Key said a new public holiday most likely would not happen but if it got enough support, a land wars remembrance day could replace an existing public holiday.

A haka during the presentation of the petition.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

A haka on Parliament grounds during the presentation of petition to have the Land Wars recognised.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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