The Italian Ambassador to New Zealand Fabrizio Marcelli will attend Kohupatiki Marae in Clive for the 28th Māori Battalion Ngāti Kahungunu D Company ANZAC Day service.
“There has probably never been an ANZAC Day service where there has been such a reciprocal exchange of remembrance and thanksgiving,” says Matthew Bennett, one of the convenors of the memorial service.
It will be an opportunity to say thank you to the Italian people face-to-face for looking after “our boys”.
In a meeting with the ambassador last year Bennett says “he said to me, ‘no it is us that owe you the debt of gratitude’ and when he said that everything just melted away.”
“Even though all of the cemeteries overseas are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, from a Māori perspective it is the tangata whenua who have the mana whenua, so it is from us to the Italian people that our mihi goes.”
Joint hosts with Kohupatiki Marae is Flaxmere College the 2018 Prime Ministers Supreme Award winners.
They will be involved in all facets of the organisation of the service “which provides a unique look into this memorial window.”
“Many say the future of ANZAC should be like this, with the involvement of youth. We are proud to stand with the college at this time.”
Of the 29,967 New Zealand soldiers that lost their lives in WWI and WWII, there are 2157 New Zealanders that lie at rest in Italy.
“One of the most important aspects of tangihanga is kawe mate,” he says “and if we can do that within manaakitanga, it just raises the ihi and wehi, those feelings that reverberate within at these times.”
“Being able to demonstrate this and provide these opportunities for our children is the best teachings we can give as older people in our marae.”
The Hastings District Council will be providing a giant sized floral map of Italy which will have the 21 cemeteries marked on the map.
A map where Bennett says people can lay their poppies, photos, wreaths and any other tributes they like on those cemeteries.
“We will be contacting our local marae to join in the presentations of their family memorabilia.”
For the marae itself, the day will be a chance to remember the names on their own honours board, inside its dining hall where around 40 names are forever remembered on its walls. A hall that was built out of the many fundraising efforts after WWII.
“My namesake came from Rākautātahi, Takapau and was killed in Crete, a single man, and because of his name there is an enduring obligation to acknowledge what he gave.”
“He was 23-years-old, a cousin of my mother, Matua Petuha Wehi, a Māori All Black who was killed in action.”
It’s men like Wehi, although buried in Crete, that will be researched by senior students of Flaxmere College to find out where the D Company soldiers are buried in cemeteries across Italy.
The ambassador will be escorted onto the marae by Amici d’Italia, the Hawkes Bay Friends of Italy.
The service will begin at 12pm ANZAC Day at Kohupatiki Marae, with around 400 – 500 people expected to attend.
Photo: Italian Ambassador to New Zealand Fabrizio Marcelli
Posted: 3 March 2019