Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has confirmed that after discussion with the Maori Party, a commemoration day for the New Zealand land wars will be established.

But Prime Minister John Key has suggested a final decision may be some time off.

English said the date had yet to be agreed with iwi and that there would be no public holiday. He said it would be a locally driven event, not imposed by the Government.

"I think it will almost certainly be locally led rather than Government-led," he told reporters today at Parliament.


"Government provides some resource but this has to be something that people want to own, not something that is pushed on them."

Key also stressed there would be no day off.

"We are not proposing that would be a separate public holiday but we are saying it is likely there might be agreement at some point that that commemoration date can be set."

Asked how it would be marked, Key said there had not been enough thinking about it. "But ultimately if a decision was made, then they would find a way of doing it."

English mentioned commemoration day during a speech on Friday at the 10th anniversary of the coronation of King Tuheitia.

It is an issue that has been pushed by the Maori Party, a support partner of National's since 2008.

Labour leader Andrew Little supports the move for a commemoration day and suggested that regions could switch their provincial holiday for a day off to commemorate the wars.

"I think... as we fully come to terms with our history and the reality of it, we ought to be observing our own internal land wars in the way that we observe conflicts and casualties in other wars we have participated in."

He also believed there should be better education about New Zealand's land war history in schools.

"I know when I was at school, I didn't learn a great deal about it. I learnt more about those issues and certainly about Parihaka in Taranaki after I left school and in fact after I left Taranaki.

"I just think we can do better at coming to terms with our history, including parts of our history that perhaps many of us are a little embarrassed by," Little told reporters.

"We shouldn't embarrassed by it. We should accept that it has happened in the past and we should learn from it and embrace what we have now, which is a set of legal arrangements that ensure that a Treaty of Waitangi is starting now to be observed now not only in the law but in the spirit."

Little said he had no recollection of having said, as claimed by King Tuheitia, that he would never work with the Maori Party.

But Little said he was focused on practical political issues.

King Tuheitia claimed Andrew Little said he would not work with the Maori Party but Little has no recollection of it. Photo/ Warren Buckland.
King Tuheitia claimed Andrew Little said he would not work with the Maori Party but Little has no recollection of it. Photo/ Warren Buckland.

"The Maori Party has shown itself over eight years of being shackled to the National Government that they have struggled to deliver anything for Maori people.

That was in contrast to Labour's Maori caucus.

"We have a good and a growing and flourishing Maori caucus, seven Maori MPs. They are an integral part of the Labour Party. Four of them are in my shadow cabinet, two of them are on the front bench."

They were not an "add-on" in the way the Maori Party was to the National Government.