School students whose petition led to a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand wars are now asking for a public holiday to mark the occasion. At the weekend, Nga Puhi hosted the first major commemorations of the New Zealand wars, or Te Putake o Te Riri, in Northland.
The commemorations came about following a petition created by a group of Otorohanga College students, one of whom spoke at the weekend’s events. Leah Bell said then-Labour leader and now Treaty negotiations minister Andrew Little made a promise to her when she delivered the petition in December 2015 – that the occasion should be marked with a public holiday.
Little was not at the commemorations but said he heard the weekend was a success. “Certainly I’m a very strong supporter of the New Zealand wars being properly observed. I think as New Zealanders we need to know all the history, including the history Pakeha may be uncomfortable with.”
In 2016, Mr Little suggested the day of commemoration could coincide with regional anniversary holidays.
He said he would discuss the possibility of making the commemorations a public holiday with the Labour caucus: “It’s not high on the priority list at the moment as we’re dealing with the housing crisis, prison crisis and lifting wages and income.”