One Question Quiz

OPINIONĀteaJune 12, 2020

‘Stop immortalising a legacy of murder’: Which NZ statues need to be toppled?


Around the world, statues, monuments and place names forged in colonialism and racism are coming under scrutiny.

The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a wave of protests around the world, and in turn a targeting of colonial and racist statues, such as the tribute to 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, which was deposited into the harbour in Bristol on the weekend.

The calls have been numerous in New Zealand, too. Here five people nominate monuments, statues and places that they’d like to see removed.

Tina Ngata

I nominate the James Cook memorial statue on the lands of Ngāi Tāwhiri, Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.

In the two days the Endeavour was here in Turanganui-a-Kiwa Cook and his crew:

  • Murdered at least nine ancestors.
  • Made proclamations of discovery, thereby extinguishing native title.
  • Abducted and raped local boys.

This was not a unique scenario – all three of his voyages were characterised by the extinguishment of native title, the taking of native lives, abduction of native bodies, sexual deviancy and infection.

Photo: Tina Ngata

Yet somehow, it matters more that Cook made maps. Even though Māori had already mapped this land and ocean. So Cook did not discover anything, he was not the first to chart our lands or oceans, he didn’t even find his own way here. Cook only matters in European history, and only figures into Māori history as an Imperial expansionist, murderer, land thief, pedophile and the inceptor of a colonial process of oppression and dispossession. There is deep, enduring pain associated with this story. Pain that is ignored in the very existence of this monument, as well as the plaque beneath it which perpetuates the colonially fictitious version of these events. The statue itself is an exercise in white supremacy, where European maps matter more than Māori lives.

Shane Te Pou

Looking back on life it’s odd to think that major controversies of our recent past actually existed in the first place. An operator greeting callers with “kia ora”, the singing of our national anthem te reo Māori, calling Mt Egmont Taranaki, or Putauaki, the mountain whose shadow I grew up under, instead of Mt Edgecombe. These were viewed by many as an almost apocalyptic end to New Zealand as we knew it. Frankly embarrassing.

It’s my view that our collective discussion and possible removal of statues, memorials and even street names that represent and glorify men who have killed non-combatives (including women and children) will be reflected upon with similar embarrassment.

One link with our past I would like to see expunged is the streets named after John Bryce.

Bryce lead the invasion of Parihaka in November 1881. Pacifists Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested along with their followers. Some 14 years before Parihaka, Bryce led a group of soldiers attacking and killing unarmed Māori boys.

It’s time to move on, recognise our collective history, good and bad, but stop immortalising a legacy of murder and destruction.

Annabelle Lee-Mather

The Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon monument in Ōtāhuhu should be tossed into the ocean. He led the assault on Rangiaowhia where unarmed woman and children were murdered.


And I’d like to see the streets named after the colonial mercenaries like Gustav von Tempsky, who committed home invasions against Māori, changed.

But what I would really love is if there was a statue erected at parliament in honour of the Hon Matiu Rata who established the Waitangi Tribunal and the Treaty settlement process, which has done more to help undo the damage those fiends wrought than any other piece of legislation. And while we are looking for shovel-ready projects, better signage of battle sites and recognition of iwi who died defending their homelands would be a worthy kaupapa.

Nadine Anne Hura

Monuments around the country have long been causing me to swerve and pull over (much to my kids’ annoyance). This one in Feilding particularly hurts my heart. To speak of the early settlers as being the “life blood” of the land is to completely deny the indigenous blood that flowed here first.

Photo: Nadine Anne Hura

It’s ironic because the Manawatū is one of the sickest and most polluted rivers in the country – and yet the monument in the town centre wants us to believe the illusion of a kindly shepherd and his bounding dog. To think this statue only went up in 2003 is shameful. Selective remembering is a key to the ongoing project of colonisation.

Anjum Rahman

In Civic Square in Hamilton, right outside the Council building, is a statue of Captain Hamilton. It’s hugely problematic. Here‘s an interesting story about a kaumatua who defaced it.

Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) is in the heart of Tainui country, so much of it was part of the raupatu. The land was confiscated, essentially stolen, for no good reason. Then Pākehā soldiers who fought in wars were awarded this land, particularly in Hamilton East. Captain Hamilton was a key participant of the New Zealand wars which resulted in so much harm to Māori, and to celebrate him with a statue right in the heart of the town? I’m not tangata whenua but I feel the insult, the injustice. I feel it every single time I walk past the statue. Imagine how it must feel for the affected community.

Photo: RNZ

More than this, in Hamilton, we have the statue of the ANZAC soldier in Victoria St, we have the farming family donated by Mr Robert Jones at the north end of town, we have Riff Raff (which is great). We do not have, anywhere prominent in the city, a statue of any rangatira, Māori soldier or citizen. It’s disgraceful, and racist. Nor do we have any statues of our Pacifica and ethnic minority communities who have contributed so much to the region.

That statue needs to go. Now.

Marama Fox

Any statue of Governor Grey for the rolling out of the suppression of rebellion legislation and the subsequent bombarding of Māori out of their homes and lands. When they refused to “sell” their lands that was seen as rebellion against the queen for which they could detain without trial, execute – again without trial – send in the military to slaughter, rape and plunder, women and children. Then, as in Parihaka, manacle, march, imprison and enslave, Māori men to build the roads, council buildings, Otago University and churches all while being held in caves.

An editing error led to an earlier version of this article including a photograph of the wrong Nixon memorial. Apologies.

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