2010 - 2011
The concept of a national day of commemoration for the New Zealand Land Wars was first raised and discussed in the Waipā District Council Chambers in Te Awamutu in late 2010. Discussions took place between members of the O-Rākau Heritage Society, Louis Te Rongonui Hitiri Paerata, Thia Priestly, Dr Robert Joseph, Hazel Barnes and Kaawhia Te Muraahi. The talks centered around the need to acknowledge all who fought and fell in the wars of the early colonial period, rather than just those who fought and fell in the three-day battle of O-Rākau in 1864 - the last of the Waikato War conflicts. Advocating for a national commemoration day was subsequently adopted and written into the Society constitution which was registered in 2011.
2012 - 2014
During the annual memorial commemorations at the O-Rākau battle site from March 2012 the concept of a national day was promoted heavily by the Society. The kaupapa was raised formally in meetings between Heritage Society Board members and Te Arikinui King Tūheitia and his advisors - where it received strong and unequivocal endorsement.
The call for a national day was also echoed for the first time outside of O-Rākau by newly appointed Waikato - Tainui executive body Te Aratāura chairman Rāhui Papa at the 150th anniversary of Rangiaowhia in 2013.
In the following months and years the kaupapa was promoted across many other commemoration sites across the country by both Rāhui Papa and O-Rākau Heritage Society Board member Paraone Gloyne.
The sesquicentennial anniversary of O-Rākau in late March 2014, provided an opportunity for the Heritage Society and its key supporters from Waikato Tainui to present the case for a national commemoration day before Prime Minister John Key, the Governor General Sir Jerry Matepārae, Minister Chris Finlayson, and former Minister Pita Sharples. Three key note speakers on the day reiterated the call for a day of remembrance before the national audience which received wide media attention nationally and internationally.
The same year Ōtorohanga College students were so moved by a visit to Rangiaowhia and O-Rākau they took it upon themselves to champion a petition of 12,000 signatures to Parliament. The Petition was delivered to Parliament in December 2015 creating further national headline news.
The Iwi Leaders Forum took up the call of a national day and formalised their tautoko for the concept at their national hui in Te Kūiti, November 2014. The kaupapa was raised and discussed in the following months and years at regional commemorations in Tauranga Moana, Te Tarata in Ōpōtiki, Te Waerenga Hika in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, Te Ruapekapeka in Northland and Maungapōhatu. The phrase "Hōmai te Rā" was coined by O-Rākau Heritage Society to support the national campaign and to raise awareness.
In 2016, former Māori Development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell secured funding of $4 million over four years to support commemoration activities for the New Zealand Wars.
A hui was held in Mānukau (Auckland) in June 2016 of commemoration site leaders to discuss and firm up matters concerning the national day, the fund kaupapa and a date.
Prime Minister Bill English announced the Governments support of the concept and the establishment of a dedicated support fund at the 2016 annual Koroneihana at Tūrangawaewae Marae.
In September 2016 another national hui took place of commemoration sites at the request of Te Kaumaarua and Te Kaahui Wairua - advisors to Te Arikinui King Tuehtia. This national hui was convened by Kaawhia Te Muraahi and chaired by Peeni Henare at Mangatoatoa Marae in Kihikihi - Maniapoto.
October 28 was designated the official commemoration date. This coincides with the date the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1835.
The hui also confirmed the first national commemoration day would be hosted on the 28th of October 2017 and that the day will move around the country from region to region.
Key players in the campaign to establish a national commemoration day were:
- The Battle of O-Rākau Heritage Society founders, board members and patrons;
- Te Arikinui King Tūheitia - Te Kāhui Wairua and Te Kaumārua;
- Regional commemoration sites across the country (Rangiriri, Waiari, Rangiaowhia, O-Rākau, Tauranga Moana, Maungapōhatu, Te Tarata, Te Waerenga-a-Hika, Waitara - Parihaka, Ruapekapeka);
- Rāhui Papa and Nanaia Mahuta of Waikato -Tainui;
- Ōtorohanga (Maniapoto) College Students Waimarama Anderson, Leah Bell and supporters;
the Iwi Leaders Forum;
- Te Ururoa Flavell and Maggie Barry.
In July 2017, the first round for the Te Pūtake o te Riri – Wars and Conflict in New Zealand Fund opened. Applicants will be able to apply for funding to support national commemoration events as well as regional commemorative events.