A pou maumahara of remembrance, peace, and new beginnings has been gifted at one of Europe's most prominent battle sites for Anzac Day.
Waiariki Labour MP Tamati Coffey spoke on behalf of the New Zealand Government at the unveiling of the 6-tonne pou maumahara at the Passchendaele Memorial Park in Zonnebeke.
Named Pōhutukawa, the pou took four years to make and was carved from 4500-year-old swamp kauri. It stands 8m tall and weighs just over 6-tonnes.
Carved by the hands of masters from the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Te Puia in Rotorua, the pou is a tribute to Maori who served in World War I, other New Zealand soldiers and their allies.
"The Māori Battalion are not only a source of immense pride for Māori and every New Zealander, they were a turning point for race relations in Aotearoa," Coffey said.
Coffey urged all to stand fast against the divisions which exist today.
"As we are doing here in Belgium with this pou maumahara, let us build relationships between countries, between each other," he said.
He said the pou would allow a reflection on the sacrifices made by our service men and women, the impact on their families, and honour the legacy and lessons they left behind.
"This 'pōhutukawa' will bloom and inform the minds of generations to follow."
"We all have a responsibility to be that bridge in our everyday lives...to value diversity, freedom and fairness as our veterans did.
"Collectively, we can reaffirm our commitment to peace and step forward together."
Te Puia l NZMACI board member David Tapsell said the pou was gifted to the Zonnebeke community to commemorate the two countries' shared wartime history and the significant contribution the Maori Battalion made.
He said the pōhutukawa signified new beginnings, welcoming tupuna (ancestors) when they arrived from Hawaiki, as well as being the last tree that stands at the tip of New Zealand's most spiritually significant place (for Maori), Cape Reinga.
Tapsell said the pou told the story of the impact of World War I on Maori and the New Zealand community.
The carving had two sides: Tumatauenga (war) faced northwest towards the "jumping off line" for New Zealand soldiers, and Rongomaraeroa (peace) faced southeast to acknowledge those who stayed home in New Zealand, including those who opposed.
"The memorial carving celebrates the memory of our ancestors and the sacrifice they made, expressed through our nation's best carvers."
Te Puia NZMACI has been working alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Belgian authorities on the project.
New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium Gregory Andrews said he hoped the memorial acted as an enduring point of connection between New Zealand communities and the people of Flanders, who had already shown great hospitality to generations of New Zealanders.