GUEST BLOG: Moana Maniapoto – Anzac in a time of COVID


Anzac Day saw Bubbles all around New Zealand stand at dawn. By the mailbox. In gardens. In lounges. Physically distant but united. Reflecting. On life. On loss. On war. On history.

Less than 20 years after the 1881 invasion of a peaceful Parihaka, NZ entered its first international conflict. Natives were officially excluded from fighting. But when WW1 broke out, some Māori leaders challenged the exclusion, seeing Māori involvement as an opportunity to strengthen claims for equality. 

Others gazed across confiscated and occupied territories – and linked it to growing poverty within. Princess Te Puea defended Waikato against a Māori conscription policy targeting her own. Rua Kenana – arrested for sedition – one of the longest trials in New Zealand’s legal history. Fighting for freedom doesn’t always include the freedom not to fight. 

2227 Māori and 458 Pacific Islanders served in WW1.

Maori veterans, after proving themselves more than equal on the battlefield – lauded for their bravery, discipline and hard work — and therefore earning what they thought was the right to be treated equally at home – returned to find not only a pandemic, but almost as heart-breaking, after everything they’d experienced, to find themselves treated as second class citizens once again in the country they’d fought for. 

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Imagine what that must have been like. They expected this monumentally life-changing experience to transform the way the country viewed them. They came back, battle-hardened and worldly. After having faced death down so many times, they were right back where they started. Not even allowed to drink with their mates in the pubs. 

As we come out of Anzac Day, it’s worth remembering this. Especially in the middle of a global crisis – laying bare all the inequities and weaknesses and injustice of the systems we’re living under. That unless we make a conscious, concerted and active effort to learn the lessons its offering us….nothing will change. 

Now is the perfect time to stop, breathe, think, and truly reimagine our future.

Te Ao with MOANA screens on Māori TV 8pm Mondays



  1. Moana – I agree with what you say here, and the change needs to come from all sides. Marama Davidson’s anti-white diatribe at the Auckland ChCh mosque massacre vigil, blaming Pakeha, was unfair, untrue, unhelpful, and a rotten thing to do to traumatised Muslims trying to navigate their way in a new country. It was socially divisive, and it ran counter to the PM’s message that we are all one people.

    The streets of the USA are littered with war veterans wrecked from serving their country, and now human debris. The UK has vets, young vets, unlikely to ever be whole again – not everyone gets to be a cared-for Chelsea Pensioner paraded on ceremonial occasions in uniforms which they are still proud to wear.

    It is a fact of war, that all political leaders use their so-called defence forces for their own, and other countries’ ends. When they screech in Parliament as John Key did, to “Get some guts” and send our troops off to Iraq, it was chillingly obscene, knowing how they return home, and their personal struggles, often fighting for a quality of life blighted by having more guts than effete pony-tail pullers and dodgy politicos feathering their own nests.

    The societal position of Maori soldiers post WW1 and WW11, may have been partly tempered by the way society was then structured, with the rural/urban divide. We’re more of a melting pot now at everyday level – most of us have whanau, work mates, and friends of various ethnicities.

    The aggrieved Hobson’s Pledge groupies wailing away about Treaty settlements, will be blown away by the winds of time as obsolete ideas usually are, and not with a bang, but with tired self-dissatisfied little whimpers. This doesn’t mean that NZ, or other countries, will treat the plebs of any hue any better in war time, than they think that they can get away with in peace.

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