26 Apr 2013

Call for greater recognition of Pacific troops

8:21 am on 26 April 2013

Families of Pacific Island soldiers who fought in World War I are calling for greater recognition at next year's Anzac Day commemorations.

More than 450 mostly Niueans and Cook Islanders served with the Maori Pioneer Battalion in France and the Middle East, and were remembered by their descendants at ceremonies in Auckland on Thursday.

Speakers at the Niuean service said the Pacific troops should be honoured properly next year when centenary events marking World War I begin.

National Party MP Alfred Ngaro, who is of Cook Islands descent, said few New Zealanders know Pacific soldiers fought with Anzac troops, and their contribution needs to be highlighted.

Sisikefu Tama of the Niue RSA said they would like to compile a history of the Niueans who fought in the Great War and are hoping for Government support for that.

He said they would also like support for a parade in Auckland in 2015 to mark 100 years since the first Pacific troops went to war.

Miriam Poitoa-Kauhiva, whose grandfather served in Egypt, would like the Government to help relatives visit graves of Niuean soldiers buried overseas.

Among those at the dawn service at Auckland Museum on Thursday was 95-year-old Sione Mavaetangi, who fought in the Solomon Islands in 1943 and is thought to be the last surviving Pacific Island veteran from World War II.

He was mobbed by well-wishers after flying specially from Tonga to attend the dawn service with his grandson.

Auckland Museum and Auckland Council say the city's centenary events will feature Pacific contributions, starting next year with the anniversary of New Zealand's annexation of Samoa from Germany in 1914.