Whanganui historian Danny Keenan says the wrong date has been chosen to remember New Zealand's Land Wars.

A date actually relevant to fighting over land should have been selected, he said.

The choice of October 28 as a day to remember New Zealand's Land Wars avoids specific days when Māori suffered hurt, dispossession and loss, Whanganui historian Dr Danny Keenan says.

Iwi representatives throughout the country have chosen October 28 as the Rā Maumahara National Day of Commemoration of the wars. The first one will be in 2017.


That date was chosen because it was the day when northern tribes signed a Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in 1835. Dr Keenan said it showed Māori were buying into the Pākehā notion that the wars were about sovereignty.

"The date reinforces modern Māori-Crown post-settlement concerns about Māori political autonomy."

For Māori people, sovereignty is indistinguishable from te tino rangatiratanga, which lies in land and the continuing possession of it, he said.

He would have chosen a date directly related to fighting over land - March 17 when hostilities began near Waitara, for example, or November 20 when King Tawhiao tried to turn back British soldiers at Rangiriri.

"A date more reflective of the Māori experience of those wars, with all of the hurt, dispossession, loss and devastation has been by-passed, and that is a great shame," he said.

The new national day came about because two young Otorohanga people presented a petition to Parliament, asking for more recognition of the Land Wars. The Maori Party then secured $4 million over four years to fund it.

How those funds will be used has not been decided.

Armed conflict in the wars happened in Wairau, Northland, Taranaki, Waikato, Te Urewera, Ōpōtiki and the East Coast during the 1800s. More than 2750 people were killed.