We know little about our New Zealand wars. Should we?


For much of the 20th century Pakeha New Zealanders remembered a heavily mythologised version of the New Zealand Wars, full of stories of mutual heroism and chivalry (such as the tale of “Rewi’s last stand”). But when darker, more truthful accounts began to emerge from the 1970s on, the backlash was swift. Just ask James Belich. Or Tainui and other iwi.

They have never forgotten. And they have carried this history for too long on their own. It is time for other New Zealanders to embrace these difficult aspects of our nation’s past.

It would be genuinely concerning if young people were fleeing from New Zealand history as Belgrave alleges. Instead, led by students from Otorohanga College, Gisborne and elsewhere, many are pleading with education officials to be taught it warts and all. Perhaps it is time their elders listened.

Agreed. ? No more whitewashing of New Zealand history. ? However, the fear is that the brownmail will hit overdrive once activist Maori have another bit of leverage on the nation’s collective guilt. ?

Nothing speaks more powerfully to how little New Zealand has cared about the wars fought here than the almost total neglect of some of the battle sites. If these were American Civil War heritage sites they would have gold-plated protection and recognition. Here? We put roads through the middle of them.

Fortunately, things are getting better. Part of the Rangiriri site, formerly part of State Highway 1, was recently returned to Tainui. A national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Wars has been announced, with iwi leaders emphasising that this will be an opportunity to remember all those who died, be they Maori or Pakeha.

At times I visit various redoubts around the country and I read the signs, if any. ?And it leaves you wanting to know more. ?There are some awesome things that happened. ?Awesome good, and awesome bad. ?Let’s not shy away from it.



– Vincent O’Malley, NZ Herald