We need to be on the same page about our history in order to move forward, together.

That's the message from organisers of three-day national commemorations of the New Zealand Wars, which begin in Taranaki today.

Te Pūtake o te Riri, He Rā Maumahara is the result of the work of students from Otorohanga College who presented to parliament a petition to set aside a national day to remember the 19th century conflicts.

The first commemorations were held in the Bay of Islands last year.


From today it's Taranaki's turn.

Dr Ruakere Hond, a key member of the working party co-ordinating the event, said the wars were a critical part of Taranaki's history.

"For a long time it has been made invisible. A lot of people simply say there were some wars, the land became ours, let's move on and forget about it," he explained.

"But in actual fact it's incredibly complex, in the role of those wars in how Maori became disenfranchised, became impoverished really in this region through the loss of an economic base."

Dr Hond added that we all needed to have the same understanding of our history, in order to stop talking past one another.

The New Zealand Wars, or land wars, were battles between the Crown and some tribes which took place from the 1840s to the 1870s.

In Taranaki the conflict stretched from 1860 to 1881, ending in the invasion of Parihaka following its display of passive resistance.

This week's commemorations come just days after a government bill apologising for the Crown's actions at Parihaka passed into law.


Minister for Maori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis will be part of a government delegation, led by the Prime Minister, at the opening of the gathering at Owae Marae in Waitara today.

He says we commemorate wars New Zealanders fought in overseas, and it's only appropriate to do the same for wars fought in New Zealand.

"I think it's right that we know about our history, we learn about our history. I think it makes us stronger as a country."