Historic 28th Battalion commemoration in Reefton

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

In a historic first, the small South Island town of Reefton commemorated veterans of the 28th Māori Battalion. Local Ngāi Tahu hapū were invited to lead commemorations for the first time.

An exchange of cultures and gifts in a first for Reefton.

“We've come here to implement the aspirations and desire by the community and be a physical presence, but also at the same to remember those who died and those who returned,” said Te Rua Mason (Poutini Ngāi Tahu).

Local hapū were invited to lead commemorations for the 28th Māori Battalion.

Local RSA President said it was important to acknowledge the contribution of Māori during WWII.

“The 28th Māori Battalion was a significant part of New Zealand history, both military and national history and that nothing like this has been done by our area before,” said Groves.

“So from there we decided that we should do a commemoration service for them and if we were going to do it it has to be done the right way within Māori protocols.”

With but a handful of the battalion remaining, ex-servicemen say their legacy will live on.

National RSA kaumātua, Miki Apiti said, “I was happy when I heard at this event in commemoration of those who served in the 28th Māori Battalion.”

“In communities and small towns like Reefton, they remember the historical battles fought by our Māori soldiers,” said Lieutenant-Colonel and author, Sir Wira Gardiner.

A window to the past for generations to come. A local store owner said the commemorations were fantastic.

“And to think that we can be part of this and pass this on to our grandchildren is great.”

For now, though a relationship has been forged, with Reefton RSA looking to continue in the future.