Thank goodness the four years of World War I myth-making has only a few days left to run. It's ending with a New Zealand "victory" of course. The plucky, caring Kiwis, armed with just a garden ladder, flushing German soldiers out of the little French town of Le Quesnoy without a civilian being killed.

It seems almost churlish to note that 140-odd Kiwi soldiers died in the associated action that day, and that if the generals had only waited a week, the war would have been over and the Kiwi death toll on the Western Front for 1916-18 of 12,483 would have been that much less.

But hurrah, the war - sorry, I meant the centennial commemorations of the "war to end all wars", is all but over, and we can start focusing back on the home front. On to issues like our non-observance, as a nation, of the New Zealand colonial wars of the 1800s, which had a much greater influence on who we are as a nation today than any adventure overseas.


Waikato University law professor Alexander Gillespie raised this here on Monday in a piece to coincide with the anniversary of the signing by Northern Māori of the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand on October 28, 1835. He proposed that Anzac Day legislation be amended "to explicitly encompass the New Zealand Wars".

With Treaty settlements well advanced, and "many of the injustices and wrongful actions of the early colonial government" acknowledged and recompensed, it was time to "fold these conflicts in" with the other military battles we've been involved in, "Lest we forget".

While welcoming his call to end the "awkward silence" surrounding the NZ Wars, I'm afraid smuggling them on to the Anzac Day roster seems just another way of doing what we have been doing for the past 150 years - avoiding the issue.

Professor Gillespie notes how the role of Anzac Day has expanded over the years from its original function as a time to grieve the death of 2779 Kiwis at Gallipoli to now being a day of remembrance encompassing all the overseas battles New Zealand has joined in - before and after Gallipoli.

However, the 19th century wars on New Zealand soil were not, like the others, about New Zealanders going overseas to fight for king and country. It was a civil war with not so distant ancestors of today's Kiwis, fighting each other for both sovereignty and land.

At the very least, this nation-shaping clash of cultures, deserves a day of reflection and commemoration of its own.

I confess I've been banging on about this since at least 2012, when the Ministry of Culture and Heritage unveiled a four-year, $17 million programme to commemorate the "nation-building" events of WWI. Subsequently, another $120m was found to build a new War Memorial Park in Wellington as well. I thought it money misdirected.

It wasn't until early 2017, that a group of Otorohanga College students petitioned Parliament and nudged the Government into setting up Te Pūtake o te Riri - Wars and Conflicts in New Zealand Fund. From it, $1m was to be allocated annually to support commemorative events for "the wars and conflicts between various iwi and the Crown which took place from the late 1840s to the 1870s".


There was to be an annual national event each October 28. This year it was to be hosted by the northern tribes. If it made the news over the weekend, I missed it. The emphasis seemed to be on warm and fuzzy stories from Le Quesnoy.

In 1975, the growing Māori protest demand that the Government "honour the Treaty (of Waitangi)" and "redress Treaty grievances" resulted in formation of the Waitangi Tribunal to hear claims against the Crown about contemporary grievances. In 1985, this was back-dated to grievances from 1840 onward.

A wide range of settlements have been reached, but I suspect the "reasons why" have not got through to the general population. How many know of the 1863 New Zealand Settlements Act which confiscated 1.6 million hectares of Māori land, because of "insurrections amongst evil-disposed persons of the Native race".

So yes, a big tick for a day of commemoration and above all, education. But let's not hide it in the Anzac kit bag.