Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared war on "fake news" in the upcoming election campaign. She should add fake history while she's at it.
Over the weekend, as everyone in the North Island living above a line stretching from Gisborne to Kawhia, took a public holiday to celebrate Auckland's fake birthday, one of the city's leading architecture firms released visions of a great museum on the CBD waterfront to honour, amongst other things, the exploits of "Kiwi Bravehearts" in the "Māori Wars."
The which wars? What colonial time warp have these guys been living in for the past fifty years?
If ever justification was needed for the Government's plans for compulsory New Zealand history teaching in schools, it was surely such a faux pas.
Did none of these architects have sufficient grasp of history to know that the old British imperial habit of naming their wars of conquest after the people they invaded – Zulu Wars, Boer Wars, Indian Mutiny – was abandoned by New Zealand historians around half a century ago. As for trying to reduce these deadly mid-19th century battles for control of New Zealand, into a simple game of heroes, that's cringe-making.
My old official high school history text, "Our Country" dated 1960, used the term, but the previous year, Professor Keith Sinclair, in his ground-breaking "History of New Zealand," spoke of the Māori Wars in inverted commas, noting that "the Māori Wars , more appropriately, called [the wars] 'te riri pakeha' – 'white man's anger' or 'quarrel.' "
Indeed as early as 1922, historian James Cowan had more accurately written about "the New Zealand Wars." For the last half century this has now been accepted as the more unbiased term.
Appropriately enough, this story emerged as Aucklanders took a day off work to celebrate the fake birthday of a Province – or region – that was officially abolished in 1876.
Fake because the actual birth date of Auckland, the city, is September 18, the day in 1840, Crown representatives and Ngāti Whātua leaders agreed to a British settlement on the Waitemata.
Two years later, Hobson gave Aucklanders an annual public holiday, but he chose January 29, marking the day he sailed into the Bay of Islands in 1840.
The provinces didn't come into existence until the 17 January 1853, with Auckland Province just borrowing the existing Hobson arrival holiday, as it's fake provincial birthday.
All of which makes Monday's anniversary celebrations rather meaningless. Especially compared to places like Nelson and Otago, where "founding" public holidays actually do coincide with the anniversary of "first ship" arrivals.
What these anniversary holidays up and down the country do have in common , fake or genuine, is they're all related to our settler past.
And while I'm not about to stick my neck out and argue for depriving anyone of a paid public holiday, the pro-settler bias of the anniversary day holiday list does make the case for a national day commemorating the New Zealand Wars in a balanced, unbiased way, even stronger than it already is.
In 2016, the previous Government declared 28 October, the anniversary of the 1835 Declaration of Independence by certain Northern chiefs, would be a national day to commemorate New Zealand Wars and Conflicts between 1843 and 1916.
But it wasn't a public holiday and has been left to tribal groups to take turns at commemorating a local war in their area. So far, this "national day" has passed by, all but unnoticed.
It needs upgrading to something akin to Anzac Day, a day when the whole nation pauses to reflect on the fiery man-made crucible from which present day New Zealand emerged. Crucially it needs to be led and funded by the Crown as part of on-going Treaty of Waitangi reconciliation process.
Over the past 30 years, well over $2 billion has been paid in token compensation accompanied by fulsome apologies for the sins of previous generations. But incredibly, over this period, little attempt has been made to educate New Zealanders on what is going on.
That university educated citizens can blandly promote a museum celebrating "Bravehearts" of the "Māori Wars," and presumably see no wrong, only underlines this failure.