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Source: New Zealand Governor General

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karangatanga o te wā, tēnā tātou

Ki a koutou e te mana whenua, ki a Ngāti Kawa, Ngāti Rāhiri, Ngāpuhi, tēnā rā koutou katoa

Ki ngā rangatira o tēnei whare, o tēnei hapori, o te Kāwanatanga, tēnā koutou

Ki ngā ope taua, ki ngā ika a whiro, ki ngā whānau o te hunga nei – tēnā koutou.

Today, a new page is turning in the history of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

The mana of this, our most significant heritage site, has been enhanced with the addition of this museum, Te Rau Aroha.

Visitors to this whare maumahara will learn about the commitment and sacrifice of Māori men and women who have served in conflicts here and  around the globe.

A key feature of this story is the history of the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion and the 28th Māori Battalion.  The story of how Māori were encouraged by their leaders in the First and Second World Wars to volunteer for service, as the price of citizenship under article three of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Today we honour the two remaining veterans of the 28th Māori Battalion: Robert Gillies, who served in B Company with the 10th Reinforcements and who is with us today, and Epineha Ratapu, who served with C Company and embarked with the 7th Reinforcements.

We welcome also the widows of veterans and we acknowledge your loss.

I also acknowledge Māori men and women who served in all of the services, in land, sea and air operations, including in the South African (Boer) War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Malaya and Afghanistan.

In some instances, Māori served with allied forces.

A notable example is William Rhodes-Moorhouse, of Taranaki and Te Āti Awa descent.  He served as a Royal Flying Corps pilot in the First World War and died from his wounds on the 27th of April, 1915.

Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the first airman to receive that accolade.

In the South African Boer War, John Walter Callaway, who was Wāta te Wahahuia of Ngāi Te Rangi descent, was the first Māori to serve in South Africa.

Along with other Māori, he had managed to circumvent British policy that excluded ‘native’ troops from being employed in wars between Pākehā by using a Pākehā name. Premier Richard Seddon sided with Māori leaders in noting that the Imperial policy was ignorant of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In the First World War, a Māori Contingent was formed and saw action in Gallipoli, and their exploits earned the respect of Pākehā servicemen.

Post Gallipoli, the Contingent was integrated into the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion and became the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion.

The Battalion served the remainder of the war in a logistical support role, though on occasion, they were used to launch stealthy attacks on enemy trenches, armed with bayonets and patu.

Eighty years ago, on the 6th of February 1940, just three months before they left our shores to fight in Europe, the 28th Māori Battalion assembled here on the treaty grounds, as part of the centennial commemorations for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

On that day, they heard Sir Āpirana Ngata talk about the ‘Price of Citizenship’. He called on Māori to make the ultimate sacrifice to honour the Treaty of Waitangi.  He said that by serving their country as equal citizens, they would gain equality with Pākehā.

Prior to World War II, Māori were often living on the periphery of New Zealand society.  Fighting alongside Pākehā soldiers on the battlefields of North Africa and Italy provided both with new opportunities to engage with each other, and develop mutual trust and respect.

Captain Henare Ngata of Ngāti Porou explained it this way:

…in a wider sense, the fact that Māori took an active part in the war produced a number of positive things. Māori gained a higher profile in New Zealand life. The Treaty of Waitangi has been given a status unthought of pre-war…

But the price the 28th Māori Battalion paid for that equality of citizenship was high.  Their casualty rate was almost 50 percent higher than for other infantry battalions.

The loss of Māori leadership from actions in the Second World War was felt long after the War ended.

Marae lost potential leaders on the taumata, and were deprived of their knowledge of tikanga, whakapapa, rongoā, karakia and kōrero.

Whakapapa was impacted by the foreign names given to many Maori children born during the war.  Such as  Niew Amsterdam – after the troopship, and Cairo, Crete and Egypt – places where their fathers and other whanau were stationed.

Other names given to children, such as Tunis, Alamein, Medenine, Faenza and Cassino, were poignant reminders of loved ones who had died in action in battles there.

Te Rau Aroha – generosity of the heart, spirit and mind – is aptly named. This institution will care for the memory of brave service personnel such as Second Lieutenant Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, of Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau ā Apanui descent, the first and only Māori soldier to receive the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.

One of my predecessors, Sir Cyril Newall, attended a hui in Ruatoria in 1943 to posthumously honour Lieutenant Ngarimu.

It was a day of deepest sorrow, echoing the loss expressed by many other bereaved whanau and hapu on marae around the nation.

Today we are honoured to have our most recent Victoria Cross recipient with us  – Corporal Willie Apiata, who served in the 1st NZSAS Regiment.

Willie – Your extraordinary acts of courage and gallantry are recognised by us all and especially valued by everyone who serves our country.

Our Māori service personnel of today are inspired by such acts and by the courage and commitment of their tupuna who are remembered here, as they undertake peace-keeping and humanitarian missions around the globe. 

In time, their service, too, will be chronicled here at Te Rau Aroha.

To everyone entrusted with the care of the taonga and mātauranga within Te Rau Aroha, I give my congratulations for bringing such a unique and important project to fruition.

Māori will continue to have a strong influence on the direction that this nation takes moving into the future.   However, having Te Rau Aroha is also a reminder that our future can still be guided by our past.

Ka mua, ka muri

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa