New Zealand Land War commemorations should be a chance to educate New Zealanders about the background of Aotearoa rather than being just another date on the calendar, a Northland iwi leader says.
Over the next four years $4 million will go towards commemorating the wars which occurred in Wairau, Northland, Taranaki, Waikato, Te Urewera, Tauranga, Opotiki and the East Coast during the 19th century.
Te Runanga a iwi o Ngati Hine chairman Waihoroi Shortland, along with several other iwi leaders, met with Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell earlier this month to discuss how the land wars can be best commemorated.
Mr Shortland said the funding needed to go towards ensuring the day had meaning, rather than hui and gatherings.
"Let's look at the next four years, let's strategise how you might invest for a national day and let's ensure we give it meaning.
"It's a chance to look at the past and how it reflects on the present. It gives background so people can get a better appreciation of what it took to create this place we call New Zealand," he said.
Mr Shortland said a commemoration day would be particularly significant for Northland, with several battles taking place in the region including Ngapuhi attacking and destroying Kororareka in March 1845, the British Army attack on Puketutu in May 1845, the attack on Hone Heke in Te Ahuahu, the battle of Ohaewai in late June/early July 1845 and the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa in January 1846.
He said conversations were leaning towards the idea of land wars being commemorated by a memorial day rather than a public holiday and has suggested February 29 as the date to mark the land wars.
"I don't think people are pushing for a public holiday to rival Anzac Day. I think February 29 would be a good day so commemorations happen every four years. It gives people a chance to reflect on what is worthy of acknowledgement," said Mr Shortland.
The funding for commemorations will provide financial support to mark commemorative events. It may also support education-related activities for schools, kura and communities about the Land Wars.
Mr Flavell said other topics discussed at the meeting with iwi leaders included whether to have a Land Wars monument at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, and the ultra-endurance heritage challenge Te Tapuwae Roa - a challenge to remember the wars between 1843 to 1905.