The success of an event marking the 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa will add weight to calls for a national day commemorating the New Zealand Wars, organisers say.

The battle, which ended in January 1846, was the final clash between Maori and British forces in the Northern War which started with the felling of Russell flagstaff in 1845.

The January 10 commemorations saw up to 400 warriors perform a dawn ceremony, challenges and mass haka, while a series of speeches was followed by the firing of replica 18th century mortars. Many of those taking part were descendants of Chief Te Ruki Kawiti, who built what is considered the pinnacle of Maori military engineering.

Te Ruapekapeka Trust acting chairwoman Willow-Jean Prime said the day was a great success. She was delighted by the turnout with about 500 people joining hundreds of warriors from Tai Tokerau, Tainui, Tauranga Moana and Tuhoe.


"The toa (warriors) were so impressive. It was spine tingling. The whole day, from the dawn service to the firing of the canons, was really special."

The trust had decided future commemorations would be staged every five years with the next, for the 175th anniversary, due to take place on January 10, 2021. There had been calls after this year's event to hold it every year, which Mrs Prime said showed people enjoyed it and believed it was a great kaupapa.

The commemorations were also a chance to reinforce to visiting MPs the importance of remembering an important chapter of Northland history, and would lend weight to calls for a national day for all the New Zealand Wars.

A petition had been tabled in Parliament urging an official day of remembrance, though not necessarily a public holiday, and was being promoted by Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell, who attended the Ruapekapeka Pa commemorations with Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis, was keen to continue the discussions, Mrs Prime said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata was willing to discuss calls to make the New Zealand Wars part of the school curriculum, she added. In the meantime Te Ruapekapeka Trust's next meeting would choose its projects for the next year. The trustees were keen to work with the Department of Conservation to see what funding was available to further their plans. Ideas included recreating part of the original pa or building a visitors' centre near the pa or in Kawakawa to encourage more visitors to the site.