“Me haehaetia koia te rau i peke i te matangi?
Should the leaf withered by the wind be slashed?”
This was said by Pomare in the early 1820s when he heard that Hongi Hika had returned to Te Totara pa and defeated its inhabitants, despite peace having previously been declared between Ngapuhi and Ngati Maru.
It reminds us of the many challenges encountered by peacemakers.
Atamarie e koutou.
I acknowledge The Honourable Andrew Little, representing the Government
Her Excellency Hardiner Sidhu, High Commissioner for Australia
Her Excellency Omur Unsay, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey
His Excellency Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Nicola Willis, representing the Opposition
Air Marshal Kevin Short, Chief of Defence Force
His Worship Andy Foster, Mayor of Wellington
Andrew Bridgeman, Secretary of Defence
Bernadette Cavanagh, Chief Executive, Ministry for Culture and Heritage
Fiona Cassidy, Acting Chair of the National War Memorial Advisory Council
BJ Clark, President, Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association
It is a great honour to join you today, here at Pukeahu, our National War Memorial Park. This is a special place for all New Zealanders – where we can reflect on how our nation has experienced conflict, and how it has been shaped by those experiences over time.
Here, we are surrounded by the memorials of overseas nations – the red sandstone of Australia; the conch shell of Te Reo Hotunui o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, the Pacific Islands; and the United Kingdom’s Royal Oak intertwined with a Pōhutukawa.
These memorials remind us of our shared experiences of war, military conflict, and peacekeeping.
On Anzac Day, we take time, as a nation, to stop and reflect on those experiences.
We honour the many thousands of individual New Zealanders who have served their country in times of war and conflict – and we pay our deepest respects to those who have lost their lives doing so.
As we acknowledge the many sacrifices made throughout our history, we must be mindful of the need to embrace and cherish the veterans of more recent conflicts.
By recognising their contributions and listening to their stories, we can gain better insight into the full impact of service on their lives and the lives of their families.
This year, it will be my privilege to host the investiture of Tā Robert ‘Bom’ Gillies, who will be knighted for his services to Māori and to war commemoration.
Bom is the last surviving member of the 28th Māori Battalion. He enlisted in 1943 at the age of 17, and served in Italy, including at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Generations have learnt much from veterans like Bom about the meaning of service, sacrifice, and true generosity of spirit.
Behind me lies the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior – representing all New Zealanders who did not make the journey home after serving their country overseas.
Today, as on all Anzac Days, the tomb will be laden with poppies. A hundred years ago New Zealanders first wore the now familiar red poppy – a symbol of war remembrance – at Anzac Day services around the country.
At the time, other nations coincided their veterans’ appeals with Armistice Day in November, but shipping delays meant that the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association’s first Poppy Day was held just prior to Anzac Day – and has been ever since.
In the 1920s, New Zealand was heavily affected by the impacts of the First World War, and immense efforts were underway to reintegrate veterans.
Though the majority of the ill and wounded had been discharged from the military hospital system and returned to civilian life, it was becoming increasingly clear that the effects of war would be lifelong for veterans – and for their families who cared for them.
Alongside the visible scars and long-term physical disabilities, there were many more private battles with mental health, in an era where such things were rarely discussed.
And though the war had concluded, men continued to die before their time from war-related injuries and diseases.
As I spoke of at this morning’s Dawn Service, the impacts of the First World War and subsequent conflicts on New Zealand did not subside once fighting stopped.
War has shaped our society in so many ways: the loss of loved ones, friends, or colleagues; the struggles of those changed and scarred by their experiences; the lasting effects on work and the economy; and the contribution of refugee communities.
Today, when New Zealanders say ‘We will remember them’ at an Anzac Day service, some of us will remember soldiers of the First World War. Others may remember family members who served in subsequent conflicts.
And for some, Anzac Day will bring front of mind friends or whānau involved in peacekeeping missions and other deployments overseas.
On Anzac Day, our thoughts also turn to those caught in the midst of current conflicts around the world.
We see their anguish at the loss of loved ones, homes, and livelihoods. We know that the repercussions of these events will be felt for generations.
In what can feel like a destabilising and unsettling time, we must strive to anchor ourselves to our sense of shared humanity – to those qualities that connect and bind us, first and foremost.
We draw strength from the legacy of our veterans and service personnel who embody the Anzac spirit of courage, compassion, and comradeship.
We are grateful for the efforts of those who have dedicated their lives to resolving conflict, healing rifts, and finding new paths towards peace, justice, and harmony.
And we resolve to be inspired by their example: to work together in hope for a better future for all.
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou – we will remember them.