My first full year in Parliament seems to have flown by, but there have been a number of memorable moments. The status post on my Facebook page that received the most comments was "Saddest place I've ever been to. Auschwitz-Birkenau. We must never ever forget." I also pasted a number of photos, with this status. Most people took these words to mean exactly what I meant them to be. That I had found visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau to be a very sad place, one that we must never forget. But a few people took the opportunity to try to minimise what had happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to attack me because they thought that I was ignoring other atrocities that have happened around the world. This of course was utterly untrue, but I was none the less amazed that 13 words could cause so much bother.
One of the reasons that we visited there and other other places like Arras and the Somme in France was to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War One. Attending the Dawn Ceremony in Arras was both an honour and a privilege. It was a privilege to hear the stories that the people of Arras have held on to and retell. They will never forget the contribution that New Zealanders made to the war effort in Europe, and neither should we.
In October I attended the 150th Commemoration of the siege of Te Tarata pā that took place on the Kiorekino plain at Waioeka in Opotiki, hosted by Whakatōhea.
Confiscations had taken place under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, The largest confiscations were in Waikato and Taranaki. The effects varied from region to region, but the consequences were very severe for Waikato–Tainui tribes; Taranaki tribes; Ngāi Te Rangi in Tauranga; and Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea and Tūhoe in the eastern Bay of Plenty.
It was an opportunity for Whakatōhea to highlight and commemorate such a significant event in New Zealand History, and by doing so educate the wider community about the history that unfolded in Te Whakatōhea in 1865, that resulted in the confiscation of their lands.
The great thing about the commemoration is that Whakatōhea also expressed their desire to follow a pathway to address the wrongs of the past. The Crown will need to respond with the same if not more generosity than expressed by Te Whakatōhea.
Last week in Parliament grounds more than 400 people from Waikato-Tainui accompanied, Leah Bell, Waimarama Anderson, Rhianna Magee and Tai Te Ariki Jones from Otorohanga High School, who brought a petition signed by more than 12000 people calling for a New Zealand Day of Commemoration for the New Zealand Wars. I support having a day to commemorate these battles that have impacted tremendously on New Zealand, and look forward to seeing the submissions for this petition in the New Year.
Finally can I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Great 2016.