He Rā Maumahara: national commemoration recognises New Zealand Wars for the first time

  • Hon Kelvin Davis
  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
  • Hon Willie Jackson
Arts, Culture and Heritage Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti Māori Development

The inaugural national commemoration of the New Zealand Wars has been held in the Bay of Islands, attended by Crown/Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson.

A local komiti, Te Pūtake o te Riri, Te Tai Tokerau, hosted the He Rā Maumahara commemorations which began on Friday and finishes today. Ministers attended a dawn ceremony at Te Maiki Hill this morning, followed by a remembrance service for the fallen at Christ Church in Russell. 

Minister Davis said it is the first time a national commemoration has recognised the New Zealand Wars, which led to the loss of 3000 lives across the country.

“Today also marks the 173rd anniversary of the battle at Kororāreka. This conflict and those that followed had enormous impacts on the families and communities involved on both sides.

“Through the commemoration we gain a deeper understanding of the Northern War and the other wars that collectively shaped relationships between Māori and the Crown.”

“An important part of any relationship is that it is based on mutual understanding and respect for each other. In order to understand who we are as a nation it is vital that we recognise and learn about our past and the events that shaped who we are today.”

Minister Sepuloni described it as an important day of remembrance for those who were caught up in these conflicts.

“The history and stories of the New Zealand Wars will continue to be shared and remembered at events like today, where these stories can be commemorated at a national level. It is an honour to be with the local community to hear their kōrero on how the battles of the Northern War shaped the Far North as we understand it today.

“Māori and non-Māori, born and bred New Zealanders, and recent migrants – no matter who you are – we all stand amongst the places and histories that have shaped our country. Events like this encourage people to come together and reflect on the past but also to think about who we are now as a people, how far we’ve come and what we want for the future.”

Minister Jackson said it’s only right that the inaugural commemoration of this part of our history should be hosted by Te Tai Tokerau.

“While the trauma and devastation of these wars and conflicts have left painful memories for many, there has been limited public recognition.

“Contemporary historians, and the airing in the Waitangi Tribunal by tribal and whanau claimants of the historical injustices that were committed by the Crown, is a history that has been brought to the fore by an emerging generation eager to do the right thing.

“This is an opportunity to respectfully share our stories and to weave our communities together, for both Māori, Pākeha and all New Zealanders.”

The battle of Kororāreka, which erupted on 11 March in 1845, occurred against the backdrop of Hone Heke’s well known protests at the flagpole at Kororāreka (Russell) and precipitated later armed conflicts, including at Puketutu, Ohaeawai and Ruapekapeka, now known as the Northern War.

The commemoration was supported by Te Pūtake o Te Riri, the Wars and Conflicts in New Zealand Fund, administered by Te Puni Kokiri.


Notes for editors

  • 11 March is the anniversary of the Battle of Kororāreka. The battle was the first in the Northern War and the beginning of a series of wars and conflicts that raged throughout New Zealand until 1872.
  • Every year local hapū and the Kororāreka/ Russell community commemorate this event by raising the Kara (flag) on Te Maiki Hill at dawn and hold a remembrance service.
  • In the early hours of 11 March 1845, several hundred Ngā Puhi warriors attacked Kororāreka (Russell). Hōne Heke and Kawiti were key figures in the attacking forces.
  • Heke wanted the Māori-language version of the Treaty of Waitangi to be honoured. He also wanted to preserve Māori independence and chiefly authority in the face of what he saw as increasing interference by the government.
  • Heke did not wish to harm the settlers, most of whom were evacuated to the ships Victoria and Active, which were anchored in the harbour.
  • The battle saw between a dozen and 20 men killed on each side.  The British ships sailed for Auckland next day, effectively surrendering Russell to Heke and Kawiti.
  • Te Pūtake o te Riri | Wars and Conflicts in New Zealand Fund supports whānau, hapū and iwi to promote and deliver activities and events that commemorate the New Zealand Wars.