Allison is a digital reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times

Plan to mark NZ Land Wars welcomed

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Pukehinahina Charitable Trust's Buddy Mikaere said a national commemoration day would not change how those were celebrated. PHOTO/FILE
Pukehinahina Charitable Trust's Buddy Mikaere said a national commemoration day would not change how those were celebrated. PHOTO/FILE

A national day recognising New Zealand land wars will not affect local commemorations of Tauranga's two fierce battles.

Work is underway between Iwi leaders and Government ministers for an annual day for national commemorations for the more than 150-year-old battles between colonial forces and Maori.

Two of the bloodiest battles took place in Tauranga at Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) and Te Ranga, and locals have said a national commemoration day would not change how those were celebrated.

It's important to shift attitudes. A majority of the population that know more about Napoleon than they know what happened in their back yards.
Awanui Black

Pukehinahina Charitable Trust's Buddy Mikaere said despite some national interest in commemorations it was more a local event.

"My experience over the last couple years, when all the commemorations have come up, is that each individual area has a special day when they commemorate their battles," Mr Mikaere said.

He said national day or not, Tauranga would still have commemorations for the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga.

Respected kaumatua Peri Kohu was in support of a day to commemorate the death of his ancestors.

"I mean we celebrate the Queen's Birthday and she's how far away?

However, Mr Kohu said there was another major "must-do" - introduce the history of land wars into schools.

"Reflecting on my own childhood, the only time I learned about them was from my dad."

Historian Cliff Simons said people were already becoming more aware of land war history as a result of the 150th anniversaries but a national day would help raise awareness.

"But I take people around the battlefields and teach them about the battles and the effect they had on New Zealand and almost always no one knows about them.

"As a nation we have very little understanding of our colonial history and of the wars and the effect they had on our nation," Mr Simons said.

Awanui Black, Mauao Maori regional councillor, said he a strong advocate for a national day.

"It's important to shift attitudes. A majority of the population that know more about Napoleon than they know what happened in their back yards."

Mr Black also supported a Tauranga Day on April 29, instead of Auckland Day, to celebrate the birth of Tauranga - including the land wars.

Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said he supported the idea, saying land battles were an integral part of Tauranga and the country's history.

Western Bay mayor Ross Paterson said battle commemorations in Tauranga were already "up there" in the city's cultural celebrations and thought a national day was a great idea.

In a press statement, Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell said discussions were underway with iwi on identifying a date.

"It's time we all recognise the importance of honouring those who perished on home soil just as we honour those who died overseas.

The facts:

The Tauranga Campaign was a six-month-long armed conflict in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty in early 1864.

It was part of the New Zealand wars that were fought over issues of land ownership and sovereignty.

British forces suffered a humiliating defeat in the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina) on 29 April 1864, with 31 killed and 80 wounded despite vastly outnumbering their Māori foe.

They saved face seven weeks later by routing their enemy at the Battle of Te Ranga, in which more than 80 Māori were killed or fatally wounded, including their commander, Rawiri Puhirake.

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