Iwi have decided that the date on which the 1835 Declaration of Independence was signed by the Confederation of United Tribes, October 28, will be the date on which the New Zealand Land Wars will be commemorated nationally, starting next year.

In August, Prime Minister John Key said a final decision would be some time off and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said the commemorations, would be locally driven, not Government-led.

The Government has ruled out making the day a public holiday.

But Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said today the day would be a "major national event" and would begin next year.

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MAORI SOVEREIGNTY

He said October 28 was significant because on that day in 1835 the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand was signed.

The declaration was drafted by the Official Resident James Busby as a foil to potential claims to New Zealand by the French, and it sought the protection of the King of England over New Zealand.

But it is sometimes cited as evidence that Maori never gave up sovereignty - most recently by the Waitangi Tribunal in its stage 1 Nga Puhi report.

Flavell said he had secured $4 million over four years to support the commemorations, to be known as "Raa Maumahara National Day of Commemoration".

Flavell, who is co-leader of the Maori Party, said iwi representatives met recently to decide on a date for the nation to commemorate the 19th Century wars.

"I'm looking forward to the commemoration because it will give our nation the opportunity to learn a part of our history that has been silent for too long," he said.

Waiariki MP and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell says he has got $4 million over four years to support the national commemorations. Photo/ Andrew Warner
Waiariki MP and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell says he has got $4 million over four years to support the national commemorations. Photo/ Andrew Warner

ARMED CONFLICT

"I'm really pleased that hapu, iwi and local communities, who for years have been organizing their own commemorative events are now involved in a major national event to recall all the battles."

Armed conflict had occurred in Wairau, Northland, Taranaki, Waikato, Te Uruwera, Tauranga, Opotiki and East Coast.

"These battles shaped our country and its people," he said. "We lost more than 2750 lives during the wars and it's time we honour them in a similar way that we honour those who died overseas."

English announced the commemoration during a speech in August at the 10th anniversary of the coronation of King Tuheitia, the head of the Kingitanga movement.

At the same hui, King Tuheitia appeared to endorse the Maori Party over the Labour Party, which has had longstanding ties to the Kingitanga.

Nanaia Mahuta said the Government should require the New Zealand Wars to be part of core social studies and history curriculum. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nanaia Mahuta said the Government should require the New Zealand Wars to be part of core social studies and history curriculum. Photo / Mark Mitchell

MOVE FORWARD

Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta welcomed the national day of commemorations.

"The event will be about looking towards a more informed future where New Zealand will not hide from our past but commemorate our own civil war so that the whole story can be told, acknowledged so we can continue to move forward as a national."

She also said the Government should require the New Zealand wars to be part of core social studies and history curriculum.

She thanked students from Otorohanga High School who had brought a petition to Parliament to call for a day of remembrance.