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Maori Battalion Hero In Anzac Day Documentary

MARCH 15 2007

Maori Battalion Hero In Anzac Day Documentary

A 20-year campaign seeking the posthumous award of a Victoria Cross to a Maori Battalion war hero is the subject of a documentary being filmed for Maori Television’s ANZAC Day broadcast.

Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi will be honoured at a special ceremony in Rotorua this Saturday (March 17) when Prince Andrew will present Te Arawa with gifts from his mother, the Queen, acknowledging the late soldier’s battlefield feats.

Auckland–based production company Screentime will film the ceremony as part of a one-hour documentary to screen on ANZAC Day, Wednesday April 25.

Director Kim Webby says the idea for the documentary was first raised by historian Norman Bennett, 78, a few years ago and Screentime has been following the Manahi VC campaign since then.

Manahi was put forward for the VC for his bravery and leadership at Takrouna Ridge, North Africa, in 1943 but was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal instead. He died in 1986 but his former World War II comrades, family and Rotorua tribe have campaigned to have the “injustice” overturned.

By the time filming is finished, the documentary will have been shot in Rotorua, Auckland, London and Takrouna in Tunisia. Interviewees include Norman Bennett, Te Arawa lawyer Donna Hall, John Marsh, Donna Grant, Defence Minister Phil Goff and Rauawa Manahi who is Haane Manahi's youngest son.

Webby says the presentation by Prince Andrew this weekend at the Manahi family marae, Papaiouru Marae at Ohinemutu, is a major part of the documentary and the culmination of all the work done by the Manahi VC Committee and Te Arawa.

Next week, cameraman Richard Curtis and Webby will travel to London with Norman Bennett to recreate some of his research and to also interview Chris Pugsley, one of New Zealand's leading military historians who is now based at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

The final shoot is in Takrouna later this month (March) when a delegation from Te Arawa and the Rotorua RSA will travel to Tunisia for a kawe mate (commemoration ceremony). Included in that delegation are Pihopa (Bishop) Kingi, Lady Morrison, Rotorua deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell, John Marsh, Donna Hall and Donna Grant.

“It's been an honour to tell this Te Arawa story which is both historic and current,” Webby says. “In following the process, leading up to the final settlement, I've been privileged to watch history in the making.

“The impending visit to Takrouna will also be a major highlight. It'll be fascinating to see and stand on the piece of land where our soldiers fought so bravely, in the middle of the desert so far from home.”

The Manahi documentary will screen on Maori Television as part of its all-day ANZAC coverage on Wednesday April 25.


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