An official pardon for Tūhoe prophet and leader Rua Kēnana is one step closer after the Te Pire kia Unuhia te Hara kai Runga i a Rua Kēnana: Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill was read in Parliament for the first time today.

Rua Kēnana was wrongfully arrested during a raid in 1916 when 70-armed police invaded Maungapōhatu.

His son, Toko Rua, and Maipi Te Whiu were killed during a gunfire exchange.

Other Māori and police were injured.

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Charges against Kēnana were later dismissed but he was imprisoned on an earlier charge of "moral resistance".

The event had lasting effects on his descendants and followers of his Iharaira faith.

The reading today followed an agreement between the Crown and Ngā Toenga o Ngā Tamariki a Iharaira me ngā Uri o Maungapōhatu Charitable Trust in September 2017 to progress a statutory pardon.

This includes apologies and acknowledgements to the Trust and Rua Kēnana descendants, a declaration restoring the character, mana and reputation of Rua Kēnana and his descendants, and a summary of the 1916 invasion.

The Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta said the first reading was a significant milestone in the journey for Tūhoe.

Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta. Photo / File
Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta. Photo / File

"I want to acknowledge the huge commitment, drive and determination both the Crown and the trustees have shown in getting the pardon to this stage," Mahuta said.

"It is important that the Crown acknowledges its actions caused lasting damage to Rua Kēnana and his descendants. The Iharaira faith went into decline after the events and never fully recovered.

"We still have a long way to go to raise awareness about our shared history but moments like today help us move into the future with increasing confidence."

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Mahuta also acknowledged the timeliness of the first reading which coincided with the plaque unveiled this morning in the debating chamber at Parliament to commemorate the New Zealand Wars.

The commemoration came nearly four years after a petition was delivered to Parliament by Waimarama Anderson, Leah Bell and supporters.

The two Ōtorohanga College college rangatahi visited the site of O-Rākau which sparked them to create a petition of 12,000 signatures to Parliament.

This petition created interest, publicity and conversation about the need to deepen peoples understanding about the wars and conflicts within Aotearoa, New Zealand and the impact this has had on our national identity.

This morning, the Government also announced that New Zealand history will be taught in schools by 2022.