With a hint that the Government might introduce another public holiday this year, there are fresh calls for a day to remember the New Zealand Land Wars of the 19th century.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has put the call out to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - who earlier this week encouraged domestic getaways in the coming months in a bid to help local tourism.

While encouraging Kiwis to stay local over the holidays, she also said the Government was "actively considering" a move to bring in more public holidays; in a bid to help the domestic tourism industry that has been heavily affected in the Covid-19 situation.

Foon said he had contacted Ardern via an email explaining how New Zealand's national and local histories were of paramount importance.


"Understanding the history creates a better informed citizenry," he said.

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"A New Zealand Wars public holiday will serve as a memorial day just as Anzac Day is - to pause and remember the events of the 1800s, including the many battles where Māori lives were lost, were incarcerated and land confiscated."

More than 2200 Māori killed

The NZ Land Wars was a series of armed conflicts between the Crown and Māori.

It began in 1845 and would continue until the early 1870s. Shortly afterwards, Māori were faced with another time of great pain through the loss of land through the Native Land Court.

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon. Photo / Audrey Young
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon. Photo / Audrey Young

It is estimated almost 3000 people were killed in the NZ Land Wars.

That figure is made up of just over 700 British and Colonial troops and up to 2254 Māori - meaning just over 75 per cent of those casualties were of Māori descent.

Foon said moves to remember the events of that time had long been called for by iwi and he believed it was the right time to mark it.


"I believe strongly in the need to teach our children to have a sound understanding of the past and prepare them for a future built on the confidence this knowledge will bring about their history."

Foon pointed out that of the existing 10 public holidays in New Zealand, Waitangi Day is the only public holiday that includes a focus on the relationship with Māori.

Although nothing has been set in concrete, one political party not keen on the idea is NZ First.

Leader of the party and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, said they did not support the idea as it would only hurt small businesses already dealing with the interruptions during the Covid-19 lockdowns.