A major new museum is to be built in Northland in honour of the 28th Māori Battalion.

Details of the museum, including the cost and design, have yet to be finalised but it will be built at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds with funding already committed from the government's Provincial Growth Fund.

The new museum is due to open on Waitangi Day 2020.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the museum was part of the coalition agreement between NZ First and Labour.

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It would be built at Waitangi because that was where Sir Apirana Ngata made his famous speech about the ''price of citizenship'' to soldiers of the Battalion as they prepared to leave for the World War II battlefields of Europe and North Africa.

Sir Apirana Ngata leads a haka in front of the Whare Runanga at Waitangi in 1940. PHOTO / FILE
Sir Apirana Ngata leads a haka in front of the Whare Runanga at Waitangi in 1940. PHOTO / FILE

Sir Apirana argued that participation in the war was a price Māori had to pay as citizens of New Zealand and would allow them to help shape the country once war ended.

The story of A Company, whose men hailed from Northland, was likely to take a central place, but Jones expected the museum to be comprehensive.

The Waitangi National Trust was still consulting representatives of the Battalion's four other companies, Jones said, so a final proposal had yet to be produced.

''For a lot of the families whose parents, grandparents and great uncles fought overseas, it will be particularly meaningful. It builds on the ethics of service and a key feature of New Zealand's Māori heritage.

"I think it will offer additional avenues for domestic and international tourists, to see another layer of the partnership and the nature of how Māori have lived up to Article 3 of the Treaty [which gave Māori the rights and obligations of British subjects]."

Soldiers of the Maori Battalion perform a haka in North Africa in 1941. PHOTO / FILE
Soldiers of the Maori Battalion perform a haka in North Africa in 1941. PHOTO / FILE

Waitangi National Trust chief executive Greg McManus said the trust was working with architects to come up with a suitable design and had started the resource consent process.

''We have to be very careful. We have to be very sensitive to the site, whatever we do it has to fit in.''

Trust chairman Pita Tipene was leading consultation with the other companies around the country, he said.

The museum was ''an absolutely perfect fit'' for Waitangi. When the battalion was originally proposed it was going to be called the Treaty of Waitangi Battalion, McManus said.

It would also pay tribute to the battalion's forerunner, the Māori Pioneer Battalion of World War I.

Although the museum will be built in the Bay of Islands, A Company's camp was located on Remuera Settlement Rd between Kaikohe and Ohaeawai.

The Treaty Grounds already has the Museum of Waitangi, which opened in February 2016 at a cost of $14 million. Later that year it was named joint winner of best project in the New Zealand Museum Awards.

The 28th Maori Battalion had the highest casualty rate of any New Zealand battalion in WWII. PHOTO / FILE
The 28th Maori Battalion had the highest casualty rate of any New Zealand battalion in WWII. PHOTO / FILE

More than 3600 men volunteered with the Māori Battalion, fighting in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. Of those 649 were killed or died on active service and 1712 were wounded, a casualty rate almost 50 per cent higher than the average for New Zealand infantry battalions.

Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, who commanded the 2nd New Zealand Division, said: "No infantry battalion had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties as the Māori Battalion."

The men of the 28th also won the respect of their opponents with Germany's Afrika Korps commander, Erwin Rommel, reputedly saying: "Give me the Māori Battalion and I will conquer the world."