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Purpose of the commemorations programme

The list of anniversaries that are recognised for commemoration by the Government is referred to in this policy as the commemorations programme.

The commemorations programme aims to:

  • enhance New Zealanders’ understanding of the stories, cultures, identities and communities that make up their nation
  • promote a sense of identity and belonging to Aotearoa New Zealand, while respecting and celebrating the diversity of people who live in these islands
  • honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and provide all New Zealanders with opportunities to better understand and connect with Māori history, culture and language, which are central parts of New Zealand national identity.

By fostering an inclusive sense of national identity, the commemorations programme can contribute to social cohesion and wellbeing.

Commemoration involves both remembering the past and creating legacies for the future. It provides opportunities to think about the meaning and relevance of historical events to challenges and opportunities New Zealand faces now and in the future. Commemorations can be celebratory, but some mark the anniversaries of conflicts and events that were tragic or controversial. Some commemorations will make New Zealanders feel proud, while others call for reflection or dialogue on painful events.

Purpose of the commemorations policy

By enabling a commemorations programme to be agreed some years in advance of the anniversaries, the Government policy on commemorations facilitates a planned and strategic approach. Planning is important to ensure commemorations are appropriately resourced, inclusive, well informed, aligned with other relevant strategies and policies, and delivered in a way that protects community safety and security.

The purpose of the commemorations policy is to allow Government involvement in commemorations to be as efficient and effective as possible by:

  • ensuring government agencies can plan for the allocation of resources to commemorative activities
  • encouraging coordination and avoiding duplication of effort between agencies
  • taking a considered approach to identifying relevant anniversaries, thus helping to ensure that the commemorations programme is diverse and that important anniversaries are not missed
  • providing transparency about which anniversaries the Government intends to commemorate.

The commemorations policy and programme are intended to guide the involvement of state sector agencies in commemorations. Commemorations will also take place in the broader New Zealand community outside the framework of this policy. The policy is not intended to direct or constrain what or how private individuals and organisations commemorate on their own initiative. However, local authorities and communities may also find the commemorations programme helpful for their own planning.

The commemorations policy and programme will align with Te Rautaki o Manatū Taonga 2021–2040 | The new Manatū Taonga Strategic Framework. In particular, the commemorations policy supports Te Rautaki’s short-term outcome of greater commitment to collaboration through regular planning meetings of a greater range of agencies involved in commemorations. Broadening the scope of the commemorations programme achieves Te Rautaki’s medium-term outcome of more high quality, diverse and relevant experiences. Achievement of the outcomes will be assessed at least every five years as the commemorations programme is reviewed.

Scope of the policy

This policy deals with one-off commemorations of major anniversaries of historical events of national significance for New Zealand. It does not cover:

  • annual days of commemoration such as Waitangi Day or Anzac Day, or annual commemorations of military anniversaries
  • commemoration of very recent events
  • commemoration of events within New Zealand of primarily local or regional significance, or of events in world history that lack a strong New Zealand focus.

Criteria for selection of anniversaries

Anniversaries on the commemorations programme should generally be:

  • of significance to the nation as a whole
  • of events that took place in New Zealand, involved New Zealanders, or otherwise have a clear connection to New Zealand
  • a multiple of 25 years since the event in question (e.g. 50th, 75th, 100th) This criterion may be departed from where several related anniversaries fall in a single year, and an anniversary that is not a multiple of 25 (e.g. a 70th) can be connected with anniversaries that are multiples of 25.
  • representative of the diversity of New Zealanders’ historical experiences
  • able to contribute to one or more of the following objectives:
    • provide a platform for discussion of contemporary issues
    • leave a legacy beyond the commemorative period
    • strengthen the Māori-Crown relationship
    • connect New Zealanders with te ao Māori, including te reo Māori and tikanga Māori
    • acknowledge past injustices and encourage reconciliation
    • whakamana iwi, hapū or hapori Māori
    • represent New Zealand’s diverse cultures, languages and communities
    • recognise the contributions of previously under-represented groups
    • promote appreciation of the achievements of and challenges facing key cultural, social and economic sectors
    • further New Zealand’s objectives and relationships internationally
    • enhance New Zealand’s international image as an open, pluralistic and innovative society.

Anniversaries of the following will generally not be included in the Government’s commemorations programme:

  • the births or deaths of individuals
  • the establishment of organisations that are not part of the state sector.

However, the anniversaries of specific achievements of private individuals or organisations can be included in the commemorations programme.

Structure of the commemorations programme

Where possible, anniversaries on the commemorations programme will be grouped into themes. Themes will allow connected stories to be told and civic conversations to take place across multiple anniversaries. Themes also enable more coordinated use of resources than commemoration of individual anniversaries as discrete events.

Themes will generally last for 1-3 years, and there may be more than one theme in a given year. An anniversary may also relate to more than one theme.

Significant anniversaries that do not fit into a theme may still be included in the commemorations programme as stand-alone events.

Approval of anniversaries on the commemorations programme

Cabinet will approve:

  • themes for commemorations
  • stand-alone anniversaries falling outside the themes.

Only a further decision of Cabinet may change (add, remove or substantively modify) the approved themes.

At the time of approving themes, Cabinet will be provided with a list of anniversaries relating to those themes. The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage may add or remove particular anniversaries falling under the themes.

The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage may add or remove stand-alone anniversaries falling outside the themes, in consultation with the Prime Minister.

In deciding to add or remove anniversaries (whether themed or stand-alone), the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage will consult with other Ministers as appropriate.

Themes or anniversaries included on the commemorations programme do not automatically receive dedicated funding. In general, it is expected that agencies will fund involvement in commemorations from within baselines. In some cases, an agency or agencies may submit a Budget initiative to provide additional funding for a particular commemoration.

Ministerial responsibility

The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage has overall responsibility for the Government policy on commemoration of historical anniversaries and for the commemorations programme.

Other Ministers may take individual or joint responsibility for particular anniversaries or themes that relate to their portfolios. The Prime Minister will also have a role in some anniversaries, as a representative of the Government as a whole.

For major commemorations, Cabinet may mandate special arrangements, such as Ministerial groups, advisory panels or contestable funds for commemorative projects.

Role of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage (the Ministry) administers the commemorations policy and programme. It does so in collaboration with the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Commemorations (see below) and other agencies. The Ministry is not responsible for leading the commemoration of every anniversary or theme. Some commemorations will be led by another agency, to whose work the particular anniversary or theme is most closely related.

The Ministry’s role includes:

  • advising the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Prime Minister and other Ministers as appropriate, on matters relating to the commemorations policy and programme
  • convening and chairing meetings of the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Commemorations
  • liaising with other state sector agencies about their roles in commemorating particular anniversaries
  • facilitating involvement by local government, non-government organisations, iwi authorities and others in commemorations, as appropriate
  • responding to community interest in commemorations and providing assistance to community-initiated commemorations where possible
  • as appropriate to the nature and scale of particular commemorations, promoting the development of:
    • Māori language plans
    • disability access plans
  • providing information and resources for commemorations through the Ministry’s online platforms.

Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Commemorations

Oversight of the commemorations policy and programme is provided by the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Commemorations (the Committee). The Committee’s role includes advising the Ministry on:

  • anniversaries and themes for inclusion in the commemorations programme, including any proposals to add or remove anniversaries
  • commemoration of particular anniversaries or themes.

Departments represented on the Committee are also responsible for:

  • briefing their Ministers on commemorations
  • contributing to the organisation of relevant commemorations
  • liaising with agencies they monitor about involvement in commemorations.

In some cases, the role of the Committee may be complemented by the creation of steering committees for specific anniversaries or themes.

Agencies represented on the Committee, and the particular interests or expertise they bring to the Committee, are as follows:

  • Ministry for Culture and Heritage (chair): commemorations generally; arts, media, film, heritage and sports; New Zealand history and identity
  • Te Puni Kōkiri: te reo Māori and Maihi Karauna; Māori history and culture
  • Ministry of Education: educational resources
  • Department of Internal Affairs: local government; Archives New Zealand and National Library of New Zealand; citizenship; Visits and Ceremonial Office; Lotteries and other community funding
  • Ministry of Justice: constitutional and human rights perspective
  • Office for Māori Crown Relations – Te Arawhiti: Māori-Crown relations; significant Crown-Māori events
  • Ministry for Pacific Peoples: culture and history of Pacific peoples
  • Ministry for Ethnic Communities: diverse cultures, languages and communities
  • Ministry for Women: women’s history and gender analysis
  • New Zealand Defence Force: military history and heritage; Defence Force involvement in commemorations
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: constitutional matters; Government House; whole-of-government perspective
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: foreign relations; events and messaging overseas; coordination with other countries.

Once established, the Ministry for Disabled People will be invited to join the Committee.

Chief Executives of the organisations represented on the Committee will each appoint a manager at Tier 2 level to take responsibility for their organisation’s involvement in the Committee.

Periodic review of the commemorations programme

The commemorations programme will be reviewed, and the list of anniversaries to be commemorated updated, at least once every five years. A new commemorations programme should be approved at least one full calendar year ahead of the year in which the programme starts. The review will be conducted by the Ministry in consultation with the Committee.