First official engagement for new Defence Minister Peeni Henare

By Whatitiri Te Wake

Defence Minister Peeni Henare made his first appearance at the national Armistice Day commemoration at Pukeahu War Memorial Park today.

The event was attended by high-ranking military officers, international diplomats and MPs, with Henare saying Armistice day is about remembering all servicemen and servicewomen past and present

“First of all, it's a peace offering to the different countries who were involved in World War I. But it means much more these days ... we remember all of those who served our country in the past,” he said.

Armistice Day is marked every year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The commemorations acknowledge the armistice signed at the end of the first world war between the western allies and Germany. Minister Henare in his new role an ode to his tūpuna.

It has been estimated that there were over 16,000New Zealand casualties in World War 1.

“That's a good thing about my new role. When I see the faces of these servicemen and -women I think of my grandfather. This weekend I will head home and visit his grave, Its there l wlll take it all in in preparation for my role”

Service runs in the blood

Henare’s great grandfather, Tau Henare, was an MP from 1914 through to 1936. He spoke out against the conscription of Māori but supported Māori when they returned to New Zealand.

“That's probably what hurts the most in my role. My ancestor sent many to war ... most of whom died. So that's something I have to carry - thinking about those times as well. But my grandfather (Sir James Henare, who led the Maōri Battalion) made things right for my ancestor Tau Henare... and here I am today.”

Although he’s only just got his feet under the table, he’s excited about what lays ahead.