Māori armed forces honoured at new Waitangi museum
Te Rau Aroha, a new museum at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, acknowledges the duty and sacrifice of Māori who served in New Zealand’s armed forces, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.
The museum, whose construction was funded by the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), was officially opened today at a ceremony that included Robert ‘Bom’ Gillies – one of two remaining members of 28 (Māori) Battalion, and Willie Apiata VC.
“The Government committed two years ago as part of the Coalition agreement to build a nationally significant museum to honour all Māori who served in the armed forces since 1840 in times of conflict,” Shane Jones said.
Te Rau Aroha includes the stories of the New Zealand wars and the Boer War, with a strong focus on the Pioneer Battalion of WWI and the Māori Battalion. It also honours those who supported the war effort back home.
“Nearly 16,000 Māori enlisted for service during WWII, 3600 in the famed Māori Battalion. Sir Apirana Ngata said participation in the war by Māori was the price of citizenship. That price has been well and truly paid, and the incredible stories of the men of the Māori Battalion are told here,” Shane Jones said.
“The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the perfect place for the museum. It was here on 6 February, 1940 that the 28 (Māori) Battalion marched to Waitangi, just a few months before they were deployed overseas. It was from here that they heard Sir Apirana’s call to honour the Treaty, make the ultimate sacrifice and serve their country.
“The name Te Rau Aroha is a term of respect and reverence given to those whose actions embody courage and service to their fellow citizens,” Shane Jones said.
“During WWII children at Māori schools throughout New Zealand raised money to buy a mobile canteen as a ‘token of love’ to dispense comfort and cheer to the Māori Battalion far from home. The mobile canteen was called Te Rau Aroha as a tribute to the children back home who ran stalls, held concerts and did odd jobs to raise money.
The PGF provided $14.6 million to the Waitangi National Trust to build and fit out the museum. Work began officially on 5 February, 2019 with the laying of mauri stones at the site.
“I am proud to have played a part in making the museum into reality, not just because of the important history we need to honour, but because of the benefits it will bring to the local community. Te Rau Aroha will attract more local and international visitors, increase education opportunities and add to the financial sustainability of the Treaty Grounds and the region.
“The museum is a permanent reminder of sacrifice and honour that all New Zealanders should visit and be proud of,” Shane Jones said.