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Strong objections to battalion museum

THREE hui held last year by Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust showed strong opposition to a national 28 Maori Battalion museum being built at the Waitangi treaty grounds.

Walton Walker, trust chairman, said those who attended hui in Gisborne, Ruatoria and Torere during August were overwhelmingly against a national museum, but did support an A Company (Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua and other northern iwi) museum.

Mr Walker told the Herald that a letter sent to the Waitangi National Trust included the statement, “Nor do we wish to be part of it if it goes ahead”.

“Our desire is to focus our efforts on our own whare maumahara (remembered) in our region, which is where men of C Company came from, and where many of their uri (descendants) still live or visit,” the letter said.

‘‘We do not agree to have our taonga, held in trust by Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa mai i Tarakeha ki Paritu Trust, being appropriated and held in a whare on the Treaty of Waitangi grounds.”

The letter pointed out that the Waitangi National Trust was historically inaccurate with some of their information.

Only ‘‘a little over two-thirds’’ of the battalion were at Waitangi on Waitangi Day in 1940 and it was not a farewell to the soldiers.

They left the country in May after three months training and a farewell at Palmerston North.

Sir Apirana Ngata, who was no longer an MP, was not in Wellington to welcome the battalion home in 1946.

He was preparing to welcome home C Company who were due in Gisborne the following day.

“In coming to this decision we have tried to think like our veterans who, when they were among us, guided us through the projects of our exhibition, our book and our building,’’ said Mr Walker.

“We feel that our decision reflects the aspirations of our veterans, which was to ensure that our stories and sacrifice would be passed on, and preserved for their uri.”

The Herald has received two letters to the Editor opposing the national museum, and Na Raihania expressed a similar opinion when he spoke to the Herald.

Robert ‘’Bom’’ Gillies of Rotorua, a veteran of the Battalion’s B Company and Defence Minister Ron Marks buried mauri (life force) stones at the national museum site last Tuesday to mark the project’s official start.

The new museum is due to open on Waitangi Day next year.