Northland's newest museum was inspired by a speech delivered at the Treaty Grounds 80 years ago almost to the day.
Speaking to troops of the Māori Battalion on Waitangi Day, 1940, Sir Apirana Ngata said fighting on faraway battlefields was the price Māori had to pay to be accepted as citizens of New Zealand.
''The price of citizenship'', and the sacrifice made by Māori in times of war, is the central theme running through Te Rau Aroha, a new museum which opened at Waitangi today.
The museum traces all conflicts Māori fought in from 1840 to date but its focus is the 28th Maori Battalion, in particular A Company whose men were drawn mostly from Northland.
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The museum itself, which is tucked into trees opposite the Treaty House and Te Whare Runanga (the carved meeting house), measures 700sq m.
The museum was officially opened today at a ceremony that included Robert 'Bom' Gillies – one of two remaining members of 28 (Māori) Battalion, and Willie Apiata VC.
"The Government committed two years ago as part of the Coalition agreement to build a nationally significant museum to honour all Māori who served in the armed forcessince 1840 in times of conflict," Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said.
Te Rau Aroha includes the stories of the New Zealand wars and the Boer War, with a strong focus on the Pioneer Battalion of WWI and the Māori Battalion. It also honoursthose who supported the war effort back home.
"Nearly 16,000 Māori enlisted for service during WWII, 3600 in the famed Māori Battalion. Sir Apirana Ngata said participation in the war by Māori was the price ofcitizenship. That price has been well and truly paid, and the incredible stories of the men of the Māori Battalion are told here," Jones said.
"The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the perfect place for the museum. It was here on 6 February, 1940 that the 28 (Māori) Battalion marched to Waitangi, just a few months before they were deployed overseas. It was from here that they heard Sir Apirana's call to honour the Treaty, make the ultimate sacrifice and serve their country.''
He said the name Te Rau Aroha is a term of respect and reverence given to those whose actions embody courage and service to their fellow citizens.
"During WWII children at Māori schools throughout New Zealand raised money to buy a mobile canteen as a 'token of love' to dispense comfort and cheer to the Māori Battalion far from home. The mobile canteen was called Te Rau Aroha as a tribute to the children back home who ran stalls, held concerts and did odd jobs to raise money,'' Jones said.
Work began officially on 5 February, 2019 with the laying of mauri stones at the site.
A $14.6 million grant from the Provincial Growth Fund paid for the museum and an adjoining multi-purpose building with a commercial kitchen, designed for hosting events and educational groups.
Together they measure 1300sq m, about the same size as Te Kongahu Museum of Waitangi which opened in 2016.
The pou at the entrance, in the form of two upright waka, were carved by Whangārei master carver Te Warahi Hetaraka and his son Poutama.
Much of the museum's power will come from an array of 300 solar panels on the roof.
The mauri stones were laid on February 5, 2019, with the project completed exactly one year later.
As well as ministers and government officials those expected to take part in today's opening ceremony include Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata and Robert ''Bom'' Gillies of Rotorua, one of only two Māori Battalion veterans still alive.
The other is Epineha Ratapu from East Cape, who turned 99 last week.
Gillies was awarded the Italian Order of Merit late last year for his WWII service.
The new museum is divided into three main areas. The first traces Māori commitment to the armed forces starting with the New Zealand Wars, while the second is dedicated to the Māori Battalion's A Company.
Items loaned by descendants include war diaries and photos taken by Walter Wordley of Whangārei but never before seen in public, as well as memorabilia collected by Captain Harding Leaf from Whirinaki.
Leaf served in WWI and was 50 when he volunteered for WWII. He was killed in Crete.
The middle gallery also explores the soldiers' ongoing brotherhood after the war and the Battalion's continuing legacy.
The first two sections are dark and information-dense while the third is sparse and light, designed as a memorial and an area for quiet contemplation.
The walls are inscribed with about 7000 names of those who served in the Pioneer and Maori battalions, along with photos of most members of A Company.
Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene believed the new museum would evoke a mixture of feelings.
''Sir Apirana Ngata said, 'We will go to war with our Pākehā brethren and fight the good war, and hopefully Pākehā will see us as true citizens'. In fact, that wasn't always the case. When some of them came home they weren't allowed into the RSAs and some even had their land taken while they were overseas.''
''So while there will be a great deal of pride there will also be a feeling that the Treaty hasn't actually been fulfilled, because even 100 years after the signing these things were still happening,'' Tipene said.
''But in the end I think the major emotions will be pride and sadness. People will remember all of these of conflicts and the sacrifices by those who went to war, but also the women and children who sacrificed much to keep the home fires burning.''
Waitangi National Trust chief executive Greg McManus said museum staff had worked closely with the A Company Association, which had organised hui to collect photos, memorabilia and stories.
''Some of the most active people we've been working with are the widows of the soldiers. We're really doing it for them.''
McManus said he hoped visitors to the museum would leave with a clearer understanding of Maori commitment and sacrifice to New Zealand in times of war.
The only tragedy was that trust chairman Pita Paraone, who died in August, could not see the fruition of his work.
''He would have been so proud,'' McManus said.
What's in a name?
The new museum takes it name, Te Rau Aroha, from a mobile canteen that fed soldiers of the Māori Battalion during World War II.
It was paid for by donations from children at what were then called native schools, who raised the money through odd jobs, stalls and concerts.
Te Rau Aroha is a term of respect given to those whose actions embody courage and service to their fellow citizens.
The canteen bus travelled across deserts, over mountains and through rivers, dispensing news and home comforts such as tea and biscuits, chocolate and other supplies.
Along the way it got stuck in mud and sand, was shot at and attacked.
A bilingual inscription on the bus states: ''He tohu aroha na nga tamariki o nga Kura Māori o Niu Tireni ki te Ope Whawhai o te Iwi Māori e tau mai ra i te Pae o te Pakanga i te Mura o te Ahi'' and ''Presented to the Māori Battalion as a token of love from the children of the native schools of New Zealand''.
After the war the bus toured all the schools which had helped pay for it. It is now at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.