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Waitangi Day v Anzac Day

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, February 6th, 2016 - 108 comments
Categories: culture, Politics, Social issues - Tags: , ,

Waitangi Day

If we treated Waitangi Day with the same respect as ANZAC Day, we’d see serried ranks of our best troops line up, and tens of thousands attend somber services.

If we treated Waitangi Day like ANZAC Day, we’d have great stone memorials in every village and town and city dedicated to our honourable dead – from every side – and town dignitaries would place wreaths and swear solemn oaths that the New Zealand wars would never happen again and swear it would all be put right.

If we treated Waitangi Day like ANZAC Day, every town would have a state-built Waitangi Memorial Hall.

If we treated Waitangi Day like ANZAC Day, students from Year 7 up get prizes and scholarships and free trips overseas for opining in essays and speeches about the Treaty of Waitangi.

If we treated Waitangi Day like ANZAC Day, all the newspapers and tv stations and the news would lay it on thick for weeks beforehand with films and documentaries about heroic Maori and European actions right here.

If we treated Waitangi Day like ANZAC Day, anyone who criticized or mocked it would be told they were traitors to New Zealand.

Like ANZAC Day gets treated now.

Is ANZAC Day more serious, more worthy of funding, more ‘nation-building’, than Waitangi Day?

108 comments on “Waitangi Day v Anzac Day ”

  1. Ross 1

    If we treated Waitangi Day like Anzac Day, then shops would be closed until 1pm…that’s not a bad idea!

    • Ch-ch Chiquita 1.1

      If we treated both days like we should, shops would have been closed all together the whole day.

  2. chris73 2

    Yes, yes it is.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    ANZAC day is more and more being treated like some sort of bizarre celebration of the dead.

    Instead of a day to remember just how fucking stupid war is.

    • chris73 3.1

      If it is being treated like that then I can assure its not the fault of current or former service people, we know what its about

      • Molly 3.1.1

        Collective “we” Chris73?

        Have friends and family in the armed forces who have differing opinions, although they attend with solemnity the Anzac day commemorations. (There is no comparable systematic support and preparation of NZ Forces for Waitangi Day.)

        And I’m not being facetious, just curious. What do you – as a (former?) member of the services think it is about?

        • chris73

          For me personally, its to reflect on those that went before me, to give pause and reflect on what those actions cost and what actions may need to be taken in the future

          Its certainly not a celebration though I can understand why those that do, might choose to celebrate

          • Molly

            Thanks chris73.

            It has that sense for me as well, but have been to a couple of ceremonies where that thoughtfulness and solemnity has been hijacked for political and jingoistic speeches.

            I appreciate your answering.

            • chris73

              I understand and I agree, I’m considering going to a smaller town this year to see if, due to lack of politicians, its any different

      • lprent 3.1.2

        …we know what its about


    • BM 3.2

      ANZAC day has become the unofficial New Zealand day.

      • Pascals bookie 3.2.1

        No it hasn’t. There is nothing on ANZAC day that detracts from its role as a day of rememberance for our war dead, as far as I can see.

        Perhaps you could explain what you mean?

        • BM

          From what I’ve read and heard it seems New Zealanders would like a national day.

          Waitangi doesn’t really fill that void due to it’s one sided nature, constant animosity and finger pointing, for the majority it sucks.

          ANZAC day has sort of become that national day because it’s always been about coming together, while Waitangi is about pointing out the differences and grievances.

          • McGrath

            +1 BM

            Waitangi = Grievances and thrown sex toys
            ANZAC = Reflections on the sacrifice of NZ troops of ALL colour.

            This Maori prefers ANZAC day as the day for all NZ’ers

          • Pascals bookie

            That’s sad, I feel sad for you.

            Basically it seems you want a happy day, but some in the country are not happy so you would like them to shut up.

            If they did shut up, would that actually make the country better?

            I think Waitangi day is fucking brilliant. It is one of the few such days internationally that is genuinely honest. We do in fact have issues to deal with.

            Ignoring those issues would be dishonest.

            What you see as one sided, is actaully two sided. It’s just that you don’t have very many good arguments nin the side you choose to place yourself eh?

            And so there is a bit of a guilty feeling that hits you in the gut and gets expelled out the old mouth as ‘God just shut up geez why can’t we all get along’.

            maybe we would all get along better if we started to listen to those complaints and getting serious about them instead of whinging, on and on and on, in newspaper columns and on talkback and all the rest, about how “maoris are ruining waitangi day with their whinging’.

            that too, is whinging. And that’s ok, have a whinge, but y’know? Something that responds to the actual facts of what maori are talking about might be better than just acting all sad.

            Maori goodwill around the Treaty has been immense, Pakeha’s is puddle deep. We’ve paid them cents in the dollar and demanded they be grateful, they are entitled to a bit of a ‘fuck you’ now and then eh?

            • BM

              Fantastic, another self loathing middle class whitey, your university professors must be so proud.

              • ropata

                ignorance is no excuse for racism

              • Pascals bookie

                I’m not self loathing BM.

                That’s the thing. I’m barely middle class either. I mean what’s that all about?

                I didn’t learn about any of this at uni either. This is the thing, the whole pakeha whinge fest on Waiatangi is about what exactly?

                If you think it’s ‘pakeha self loathing’ just to admit that there are things to work out, then how the fuck are things supposed to get bettter?


                That whole routine ‘oh blah blah liberal middle class university self loathing blah blah’, means what?

                Other than, ‘ Maoris won’t shut up and here’s a pakeha who agrees they have things not to shut up about’

                People aren’t going to shut up while they have things to talk about, so you can choose to be a whingeing prick about it, or you can choose to read up about it, and stop ignoring the things people are talking about, or you can choose to just disengage from it and go the beach or whatever.

                But choosing to whinge and claiming that you are a victim because everyone should pretend we don’t have anything to talk about re waitangi is just grumpy old man stuff.

                • McFlock

                  I’m definitely coming around to the idea that the personal complexes and inadequacies of some commenters are often revealed by their instinctive use of cliched insults:

                  another self loathing middle class whitey, your university professors must be so proud

                  The eternally sycophantic desire to please long-separated authority (maybe event parental) figures. Middle class, barely plebian, definitely not one of the elite. Secretly ashamed of their privilege so overcompensating in lipservice only, never achieving the ideals to which they aspire…

                  as Spock would say: fascinating, yet most illogical.

                • Magisterium

                  Waitangi Day has become Ngāpuhi day, and I just don’t give a shit.

                  • fair enough Mag-um – why do you think anyone cares what you think? You are a bore and nasty too – don’t worry I haven’t forgotten that 🙂

                  • Pascals bookie

                    I cant tell by the way you were reading a thread about it and bothering to reply to comments.

                    • Magisterium

                      Let me clarify since you’re obviously a bit slow: I have no tribal affiliation with Ngāpuhi so I don’t give a shit about Ngāpuhi Day.

                    • Pascals bookie

                      I can tell how you totally don’t give a shit by the way you read this post, commented, read my comments, replied, came back to it a day later or whatever.

                      Top notch not giving a shit work there fella

                  • greywarshark

                    We don ‘t give a shit about you either Toryboy so go and freedom dump somewhere else.

            • marty mars

              “I think Waitangi day is fucking brilliant. It is one of the few such days internationally that is genuinely honest. We do in fact have issues to deal with.”

              So true – bm’s got no answer to that – too truthful for him.

              I like the days as they are.

              • Yeah, I would rather have a National Day where everyone is honest how we feel about our country than be like Australia and have it be dominated by flag-as-cape-wearing racist ignoramuses.

              • McFlock


                Besides, it’s always interesting to see what gets thrown at some tosser next. It’s all very good selling out the country in a casino you helped fund, but sooner or later you’ll end up somewhere you can’t hide from public opinion. It’s a bit like having a Speaker’s Corner that politicians have to walk past 🙂

  4. Don't worry. Be happy 4

    Anzac day has been turned into glorification of war. The exact opposite of what the survivors of both World Wars felt when they staggered back off the ships. Chalk another pr victory up to the right wing….

    • Whispering Kate 4.1

      ANZAC Day should be left to the RSA and the Armed Services to organise. The Government of the day and all politicians should have no more rights to ownership of it than the citizens who turn up to remember the dead and maimed and returned servicemene who fought for us and our freedoms. There should be no MP’s spouting off and getting a photo op – I wager that the majority of them haven’t seen one second of active service in their lifetimes. I have never understood why they take such a grandiose role in the services – it has nothing to do with them – its a day for the old soldiers and the present day serving force. Come along by all means and be in the crowds but there they should remain – not taking centre stage like we know who does, on every occasion he can.

      • Smilin 4.1.1

        Yes the politicians deserve no greater status than the rest of us.
        A day of remembrance not a day of bolstering the ego of them,
        Bunch of blouses the lot of them ,some will know where that comes from.

    • alwyn 4.2

      “Chalk another pr victory up to the right wing….”.

      Rubbish. Chalk it up to the fact that there are very few veterans left from the Second World War and that very few New Zealanders have any connection at all with the military or know anyone who actually is serving.

      The same thing is happening in the US where there is a great deal of glorification of their military (watch the start of an NFL game, and probably the Super Bowl tomorrow) but nobody actually is willing to serve. Even their political leaders are becoming more and more divorced from the reality of war.

      The military, in many countries, have become totally divorced from the outside world. When I was a teenager most of my teachers, and the adults I knew, had served, usually in WW2 but people a little older than my parents were veterans of WW1.
      There aren’t any left and there is among most people only a myth about what war was like. For the US see

      I wonder what the situation is like in a country like Switzerland? They may not get into any wars but everyone has to do their military service. They are unlikely to have too many delusions about what army life is like.

      • joe90 4.2.1

        I wonder what the situation is like in a country like Switzerland?

        I wondered too so I went looking and apparently there’s nothing to remember.

        The two world wars affected the Swiss but just not in the same immediate, every-family-lost-someone way; they have had the luxury of no lost generations. How lucky they are. So today there are no poppies, no two-minute silence, no Last Post. There’s no Remembrance Day in Switzerland because the Swiss have nothing to remember.


        • alwyn

          Thank you. It was really just an afterthought to my comment.
          How wonderful though. Nothing to remember. Maybe we will get there someday.

        • greywarshark

          Except that awkward thing of trainfulls of people passing over their railway system perhaps in the night that the Swiss could not forbid. And a few other things that linked the Swiss to the Nazis but preventing loss of life.

          • alwyn

            The “wonderful” bit had nothing to do with Switzerland. It was the hope that we could go long enough in New Zealand that no one alive could remember a war.

  5. maui 5

    It will need a big shift in public conciousness first, when I tune in to talkback the ignorant chatter that we should have an Australia Day and that its all the Harawiras fault is going to have to subside.

    • chris73 5.1

      I would like to see a NZ day created to commemorate the final treaty settlement day (whatever day that is)

      No reason we can’t keep all

      • Pasupial 5.1.1


        It is a fundamental misunderstanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi to suggest that there will be a final settlement day. The principles of the treaty are those of an ongoing relationship between Māori and the crown. The closest that might occur is the winding-up of the present Waitangi Tribunal.

        • Molly


        • chris73

          Well thats just depressing isn’t it

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            No, it isn’t. If it depresses tiresome wingnuts that’s a massive bonus, though.

            • chris73

              Sure it is, it sounds like theres no settlements and there will always be a hand out for something

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                The privilege of being able to live here under Pakeha kawanatanga, for example, although I do note that you meant something racist instead.

                • chris73

                  Which means there’ll always be grievances so tribes will always be given more money (which the ordinary people won’t see) so nothings going to change so yeah depressing

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    You’re assuming that racist centre-right trash will keep on setting the agenda. You people have no respect for human rights, so of course the things you do will always require compensation.

                    We can rise above you.

              • Macro

                No you mis-understand the Treaty. The Treaty is an ongoing relationship quite unique. Even that had to be recognised in the TPPA. The fact that many governments continue to abuse the relationship is why there is continual grievance. Dame Cooper’s hikio had the motto “not one more acre”. Yet Maori are still loosing ancestral land under the public works act. Yes half of the land grabs of Govt’s past have been settled – but there is still much work to be done.
                Most Pakeha of a certain age have no idea what this day is about and care even less. But that is the fault of our education and culture past. We have much work to do as a nation.

                • ropata

                  Exactly, the biggest treaty settlement of them all (Ngapuhi) remains unresolved. Any compensation can only be partial as the full tribal lands are unlikely to ever be returned, nor can the generational poverty, loss of identity and spiritual anguish be recompensed with money

                • starboard

                  This Kiwi does..time and a half and a day in lieu..that is all waitangi day means to the majority of Kiwis.

                  • Macro

                    That is true starb’d. And that is what I said above; most have no idea what we celebrate. The Treaty is unique – the only one of its kind in the whole world. Maori who signed the Treaty expected to enter into a new relationship with pakeha. It was a covenant between two cultures. Unfortunately one partner abused that trust, and continues to do so.

  6. Smilin 6

    Waitangi Day should be a celebration of the good that our unique treaty has done to bring equality to our nation and aspirations to protect this nation in fairness to all who live here from the damage of what we have seen from, dare I say it FASCISM lite and totalitarianism

    Key deserves all the stick he gets about what he has failed to do to protect the democracy of NZ that was fought and died for by people far greater than he thinks he is

  7. greywarshark 7

    In Nelson there used to be a city meeting and an address to commemorate Waitangi Day and without exaggerating there might only be five people there. I thought the city should organise something better than that and I didn’t miss the comparison with Anzac Day.
    ‘The day our nation began’. Huh.

    Anzac Day is an opportunity for the authoritarian to show and the nostalgic and the uniform and gun lovers to turn out for the show. The armed forces who died, and the unarmed forces, nurses, weather station monitors, resistance fighters, and so on should all be mourned. But Anzac Day comes over as a ritual, dead in itself for what it doesn’t say about this atrocious war-making streak in humans.

    To make Waitangi Day live the Nelson marae decided to take it and shape it into a festival celebrating Maori starting with a big powhiri early in the day and then free entry later on, and they talk about the meeting house, and there is the hangi, and I think this time there is an international Kai Festival. So that was a positive way to approach this previously dry and briefly commemorated day so important to us. And the marae is buzzing on Waitangi Day, though sometimes going in with the powhiri I have felt that there are more overseas visitors than Kiwis. I think there are a bunch of people who aren’t really committed to the country of their birth, and would deny its reality and not value its uniqueness and quality, in favour of some USA theme dreamed up by PR mindbenders.

  8. Tautuhi 8

    Under the TPPA democracy will be officially dead?

  9. upnorth 9

    ANZAC is a world wide remembrance of events that happened in places around the world – it is global in nature. ANZAC celebrates the people who never came home and the ones that did. It covers all fallen soldiers of every war.

    There are significant differences.

    Waitangi is about the birth of a nation

    If you want to celebrate the same – fine (dawn parade and silence for the fallen) – but who fell at Waitangi?

    Why don’t we celebrate Waitangi like we celebrate Christmas – I mean there are churches on every is one very corner and everyone gets a present.

    Why not celebrate like Labour day – there are businesses on every street and everyone gets a weekly pay packet or a government benefit.

    Why not celebrate Like New Year day – there is no real reason to even have a day off work because new year date is based on flawed data on when a year starts and finish and on some roman who decided to graph the moons and sun – and we all go to the beach or cricket.

    • Johan 9.1

      Yes , I do agree that we need to celebrate Waitangi, the birth of a special nation. How many countries around the world do indigenous people have a special relationship, with its invited guests? The Treaty is still an on going agreement and needs to be understood and adhered to by its citizens. The flawed negotiations during the TPPA meetings and lack of consultation among its citizens is the latest example of poor understanding and disregard of the Treaty. Mr Key is spending more and more of his time abroad, so he may be excused;-) however his advisors should receive no such leniency.

  10. millsy 10

    14 September 1938, the day the Social Security Act 1938 was passed into law.

    Nothing makes me swell with patriotic pride more than a public hospital, apart from Hydro dams and state houses, they represent(ed) a New Zealand was that on the move, into a future of greater living standards for all.

    Were it up to me, I would move it all to Kurow and celebrate it there. The Kurow dam was the crade of the New Zealand welfare state, and one of the Great Dams that powered this country.

  11. greywarshark 11

    There is a petition organised by the Greens under the name of Not One More Acre that would a positive to sign for this Waitangi Day commemoration.
    It’s to stop the habit of filching Maori land when it suits. Have a look it seems a valid and worthwhile call.

  12. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 12

    No-one ever threw a sex toy on ANZAC Day.

  13. Meanwhile there’s another spewfest at Kiwiblog on Waitangi Day. David Farrar has created a hate site.

    Sample comment:

    Some local rag called the Wellingtonian has story about ‘Maori dentist’.

    [r0b: Agree with comments below – we don’t need that stuff reprinted here thanks.]

    Happy Waitangi Day NZ !!https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2016/02/general_debate_5_february_2016.html

    • weka 13.1

      I’m hoping that the moderators will remove or edit that piece of extreme racism. There’s no need for it to be reprinted here.

      • joe90 13.1.1

        I’m hoping one day Farrar is ordered to hand over his server logs when someone sues one of his commentors.

        • Magisterium

          Because lprent isn’t responsible for the vitriol posted here, but dpf is responsible for shit over there.

          • lprent

            Actually as a trustee I am responsible for it. Which is why we moderate out things that we consider are easily actionable under either criminal law or decisions on defamation law or beyond the scope afforded by BORA or just reasonable taste or the operation of the type of debate we are willing to allow here.

            My usual response is to ban those offending after I chastise them for their poor behaviour. The idiots who are unable to learn usually congregate at kiwiblog or join the cadre of born again victims (ie stupid bullies) at LF. I used to say Whaleoil. But it appears that the inadequate of the local net have deserted the whining victim bully there.

            But I suspect that you are mostly looking at the legal areas covered by Lange vs Atkinson.

            • ropata

              whale doesn’t need or care about commenters, in fact they are a hindrance to his clickbait farm

            • Magisterium

              Yes I was particularly impressed by your response to the post-election comment published by The Standard that read

              As for Christchurch, here’s hoping another earthquake flattens the place. They need to be taught a lesson.

              That was real leadership. I’m sure all the families who lost loved ones appreciated the high level of discourse that you work so hard to maintain. So much more mature than Kiwiblog, where of course David Farrar deserves personal criticism for every word posted there.

              LOL SMILEY FACE!

              • It wasn’t published by the Standard, it was published in the Standard. And the comment was suitably chastised by commenters to the point where no moderator intervention was required.

                If this is the best you can do to find evidence od disparity of treatment, then I think you should look up the well known legal principle about pointless complaints established in Arkell vs Pressdram.

              • lprent

                I guess you didn’t bother to examine my comment. Perhaps you should explain to me how that statement violates our policies?

                As a moderator I treat that like I treat the comments by Actoids, trolls, and morons of the National supporters. If it has a point, doesn’t violate our policies, then we leave it to people commenting.

                If you want to be an arbitrary censor making shit rules up, then I suggest you create your own blog and try to build your own audience, using the arbitrary rules you find appropriate on the day. I suspect you won’t gain too much of an audience.

                I’m always amused by the more stupid fuckwits of the right like you. They get more concerned with the manner in which topics are addressed than the substance of how people act to each other. Mrs Grundys to the core. Far more interested in hanging people than fixing the issues that cause riots, and far too cowardly to put themselves in the line to deal with the consequences of the problems they cause.

          • joe90

            but dpf is responsible for shit over there.

            Where do I suggest Farrar is responsible for the racist claptrap and outright hate speech he allows his commentors to post.

            btw, the vile little man allows death threats like those below too.

            a bullet, preferably a SOFT nose

            I will gladly donate a packet of dum dums.

    • ropata 13.2

      no need to bring that shit here, it’s well known that KB comments are a wretched hive of scum and villainy

  14. RTM 14

    Anzac Day needs to be reclaimed by the left. We have to take back ownership of WW2, and we have to broaden Anzac Day so that it becomes a commemoration of the tens of thousands who fought and the thousands who died in NZ’s 19th century wars.

    WW2 was only won because the Western powers abandoned laissez faire capitalism and ran what amounted to planned economies with the help of the trade unions. Western armies were, outside of their officers’ messes, hotbeds of socialist opinion and agitation, as army publications and also movements like the Soldiers Parliaments show. In the year after the end of the war the trade union movement staged massive demonstrations in NZ in alliance with returned servicemen defending wartime nationalisations and demanding more. A huge rally ‘Against Fascism and For Nationalisation’ was held on the steps of NZ’s parliament by unionists and soldiers.

    If we really want to remember and discuss the wars that shaped this country on Anzac Day, shouldn’t we consider Hone Heke’s war in the north in the 1840s, the Waikato War of 1863-63, the long-running Taranaki Wars, and the guerrilla war between Te Kooti and his colonial and kupapa adversaries that lasted from 1868 to 1872? There are already monuments associated with these conflicts scattered around New Zealand, but they seldom attract large numbers of visitors. They would make good locations for Anzac Day events.

    An Anzac Day which remembered the complex and divisive conflicts of the nineteenth century would be far less susceptible to the sort of jingoism and historical revisionism that unscrupulous politicians promote. John Key’s absurd claim that Gallipoli was a battle for freedom which forged a New Zealand national identity would founder against great rocks with names like Rangiriri and Orakau.

    • marty mars 14.1

      I agree scott – man you are a good writer.

    • That’s a great sentiment. Anzac Day should be a time to remember all of the positives and negatives that came as a result of all wars involving our region of the world. We shouldn’t shy away from the complexities of war, and we should honour the sacrifices and service of those who fought, even if we don’t agree with wars in principle.

    • Ad 14.3

      Waitangi Day needs even more work.

  15. greywarshark 15

    What a horrid piece of trash from a nasty shit. A Little for Leader should be banned from this site for putting up that filthy stuff on our site that does not allow such mindless attack on individuals. It is malicious to make a claim of demonstrating how bad another site is by repeating it all here and under a pseudonym of the Labour leader’s name.

    • millsy 15.1

      I belive he is copying and pasting from Kiwiblog.

      • greywarshark 15.1.1

        He put it up here so it is his choice and his responsibility for what showed up here.
        If he wanted to draw attention to it he could have put the link, a few lines of text to give an idea. It was his choice to put the lot.

  16. RTM 16

    The first Anzacs actually fought in the lower Waikato, not Gallipoli. The first Anzacs to fall in combat are buried in Drury, not Turkey. This piece of history has almost been erased, though it’s known to military historians and members of iwi like Ngati Tipa. Cf http://readingthemaps.blogspot.co.nz/2009/05/from-gallipoli-to-drury_17.html

  17. Andrew Little for Leader 17

    ‘I belive he is copying and pasting from Kiwiblog.’

    Yes indeed. Follow the link. It’s necessary to show how bad things have gotten on KB. A complaint to the Race Relations Conciliator would be appropriate. Obviously no endorsement of the despicable views evident in that comment, and in many others like it at KB, is intended.

  18. AB 18

    Anzac Day is popular because the real history is seldom discussed and it is overlaid with acceptable myths that reflect well on all of us, e.g.
    – that a distinctly NZ identity was forged there
    – that NZers were particularly brave and ingenious unlike effete Englishmen
    – that they died for freedom and democracy
    – that they were all heroes
    Not so much about it being a folly and a defeat, and nothing at all about the causes of WW1 and that the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with freedom or democracy.

    Waitangi Day is unpopular because the country’s real history stubbornly won’t go away, it keeps popping up annoyingly and isn’t susceptible to being glossed over with comfortable myths.

    So I’d prefer it if Anzac day became more like Waitangi Day – a bit more real history, a bit more anger.

    • Stuart Munro 18.1

      Yes, a good idea. The British Staff weren’t much better than the Key government.

    • Gangnam Style 18.2

      This ^.

      I have taken to wearing a white poppy around ANZAC day, I made my own as you can’t buy them anywhere. There some discussion about ‘loony lefty protesters’ not knowing what the TPPA is about, well this ANZAC day ask the jingoistic paraders what WW1 was about? Most wouldn’t have a clue.

  19. Sirenia 19

    ANZAC Day used to be full of protests including from women who wanted women victims of war remembered but the old codgers didn’t want to acknowledge that. When the Vietnam war was part of recent memory people realised how horrible and senseless war was and Anzac Day was barely marked. Over time it has become a celebration of war and masculinity. So unrealistic.
    Waitangi Day is unique to Aotearoa NZ and reminds us that we are still evolving as a society. It is much more interesting.

  20. RTM 20

    I see your point, Sirenia, but I think you underestimate how much variety and contradiction there has been within Anzac Day commemorative activities, and possibly overestimate how much external opposition there has been to Anzac services.

    You write that ‘ANZAC Day used to be full of protests’. In the ’30s left-wing opponents of fascism sometimes leafleted Anzac services at the Domain. Decades later Nga Tamatoa and other parts of the New Left also intervened in services, laying wreaths for the victims of imperialism in Nam and in 19th century NZ. Early in the 21st century opponents of NZ deployments in Afghanistan, Timor Leste and the Solomons disrupted some services. But I don’t know if we could say that there’s a huge tradition of protest at Anzac ceremonies.

    Within the RSA and other groups connected to Anzac Day, though, there has been much more conflict over how to view war than is sometimes suspected. In the aftermath of World War One, when decisions about how best to remember the war’s dead were being made, the RSA and other groups were riven with arguments between those who wanted a Christian theme for remembrance and those in favour of secularism at ceremonies. Significant disputes also took place between veterans inclined towards pacifism and those who were ardent imperialists and militarists. These conflicts are reflected in the widely varying styles of our early war memorials (some use crosses, many use pagan symbols like the obelisk), and the many different texts on these memorials (some are very jingoistic, others focus on the tragedy of war). Maureen Sharpe describes some of these disputes in an essay published in the NZ Journal of History in 1981:

    There was a very strong movement immediately after World War Two amongst veterans of that conflict to support the Labour government and its wartime nationalisations of key industries. Left-wing factions within the RSA helped organise the monster rally against fascism and for nationalisation held outside parliament soon after the war. Although the RSA had a well-deserved reputation for reactionary attitudes in the decades after World War Two, it still contained many members and even some leaders with anti-war and anti-imperialist views. The Papatoetoe branch of the RSA, for example, was led for some time by Steve Hieatt, a communist trade unionist who had led the Mangakino power workers off the job during the 1951 Waterfront Lockout and who helped found Auckland’s movement against the Vietnam War a decade and a half later. Hieatt volunteered for and fought in World War Two, because he saw the necessity of defeating Hitler, but he nevertheless took part in a rank and file mutiny during his basic training, in protest at the conditions he and his comrades were kept in.

    What the left should do is recover and publicise not only the intermittent history of protests at Anzac Day commemorations, but also the progressive currents amongst veterans of twentieth century wars.

    It is simplistic to say that Anzac Day has become nothing more than a celebration of masculinity and violence. The event, which varies greatly from place to place, can certainly have elements of that, but it also can have a strange strain of pacifism. In the post-Vietnam, post-Anzus era New Zealand governments have only been able to justify sending troops abroad by making arguments that cynically invoke pacifism and peacemaking. When our troops intervened in Timor Leste to help overturn an elected president in 2006 and in Iraq to support one theocracy against another our leaders talked about honouring NZ’s history of playing the peacemaker, making the world safer, and so on. The sort of bellicose, jingoistic rhetoric that Massey used when he sent troops off to die in Turkey is no longer saleable. Most of the young people who attend Anzac commemorations would never think of themselves as militarists.

    Given all this, there’s scope for the left to intervene in and help subvert Anzac Day, so that it becomes a lesson in history rather than an exercise in myth-making. A good place to start would be insisting that on Anzac Day we remember that the first Anzacs died in the Waikato, helping conquer the territory of an independent Maori state. When the right tries to glorify Willie Apiata, we should talk about left-wing war heroes like John Mulgan and Steve Hieatt.

  21. Tautuhi 21

    Problem is right wingers like Key and Hoskins want to make out Waitangi Day is one big protest act, which is the view supported by MSM.

    The TPPA and the Flag Change are further attempts to make the TOW and Waitangi Day
    irrelevant, the Christchurch Old Boys Club don’t particularly like anything to do with Maoris?

    Our forebears fought in the wars to make the world a better place, facism is now played out via politics and corporates taking economic control rather than at gun point?

  22. Rolfcopter 22

    It’s not all perfect in the history and rebuilding of NZ under the treaty partnership, but let’s use Waitangi Day to celebrate this nation and what has been able to be achieved.

    Use the other 364 days of the year to fix the problems and make it even better.

  23. Tautoko Mangō Mata 23

    Have a look at this! Time to face up to our past honestly.
    Those at the protests on 4 Feb were fighting for your country at home


    • marty mars 23.1

      Good reminder that – thanks. Also worth pointing out that the first protests about the Treaty began just after it was signed.

    • maui 23.2

      They replayed the 70s Land March doco on TV1 on Waitangi Day. In that they say Maori currently own just 6% of NZ land even with recent treaty settlements. Something for us to think about.

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