National | History

Public knowledge of NZ history more important than a public holiday - Kaawhia Te Muraahi

Public knowledge of the New Zealand Wars is more important than a public holiday, says member of the National Panel for New Zealand Wars Commemorations and president of the Ōrākau Pā Heritage Society, Kaawhia Te Muraahi.

It comes after Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has revived a call to observe the New Zealand Wars as a public holiday, saying now is the right time to do so.

Te Muraahi says Ōrākau Pā Heritage Society supports the idea of a public holiday but more must be done.

“I think the key issue for us, looking at the kaupapa over the last 10 years, is that before we’ve got to enshrine this concept into legislation. We really need a huge investment in socialising what the kaupapa is about across middle New Zealand.”

Te Muraahi says Māori are already historically aware about the New Zealand Land Wars so the concept is very easy for Māori to support and understand.

“Our tūpuna were involved in these. We suffered as a result of these wars, but not only wars, there were also major passive resistance campaigns which were driven through Parihaka in Taranaki,” says Te Muraahi.

But other New Zealanders are less familiar with the wars, he says.

“The challenge is middle New Zealand. So there needs to be a lot of work done on middle New Zealand to bring that level of knowledge, a level of respect for kaupapa in advance of actually moving to put it into legislation as a public holiday.”

Te Muraahi says commemorating the New Zealand Wars as a public holiday deserves good, solid planning, good coordination, a national PR campaign and excellent execution to get it right.

“Our concern is that if we move too quickly this day will be merely a day to take the whānau out to the beach, mow the lawns, have a BBQ a few beers with the mates and we do not want that.”

Te Muraahi says there is a lot more kōrero that needs to take place amongst Māori ministers in government before any decisions are made.