Hero photograph
Photo by The Rāroan

New Zealand’s History of War and Conflict

Maxin Bautista and Daniel Shelton —

This term in Whai Wāhi we have been learning about New Zealand's history in wars and conflicts.

Recently we’ve been learning about how New Zealand played a part in testing nuclear weapons, like actively supporting Britain’s testing programme, Operation Grapple. From the 1940s to 1990s, Britain, France and the United States used the Pacific region as a testing ground for nuclear weapons as they competed for global supremacy post World War II. We also learned about other parts of NZ history, like the French Nuclear Testing at Mururoa in 1962-1976, the ANZUS alliance being under threat in 1976-1984, and finally being Nuclear Free in 1984-1990 and ongoing.

Additionally, we have been learning about ANZAC history and why ANZAC day is a holiday on our calendar. Currently, we are writing letters directed to our loved ones to simulate what an ANZAC soldier would’ve sent during war, e.g. love letters, letters checking in on their family, letters to tell them how the war conditions are. We have also learned about how they censored certain parts within the letters: battle plans, any notions regarding whether the war is even worth fighting for, and things like that. Criticizing government actions and writing provocative and disloyal remarks were also censored. Those convicted of sharing information useful to the enemy, such as harbour reports, were fined up to £10, yet anyone who criticised the actions of the government were fined £100 (close to $20,000 in today’s money) or were imprisoned for 12 months with hard labour. By November 1918, 287 people had been charged or jailed for provocative or disloyal remarks. Per person, this was far greater than Britain, where 422 people of a population of over 42 million were convicted or jailed for treason. At one point, letters being sent out were also so heavily censored, that the only part left out was the untruthful part.

We have really been enjoying learning about this topic so far and are excited about continuing this journey as the term progresses.