Graffiti on the statue of James Cook reading "Thief Pakeha". (Photo: Supplied)

The Bulletin: Vandalised Captain Cook statue shows depth of wounds

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Deep wounds shown by Captain Cook vandalism, expert fact checks claims around electric cars, and police deployed to fight non-existent crime wave.

A Gisborne Captain Cook statue has been vandalised, and the message painted on it shows the depth of tensions that will surround the 250th anniversary of his arrival in New Zealand. You might recall a different Cook statue was painted red back in 2016, to symbolise the killings of Māori people during his first visit. The message that has been painted on it this time cuts to the heart of what happened after that visit – the words ‘thief Pakeha’ is on the front, and ‘this is our land’ on the back – here’s a report on it from Te Ao News.

In general terms, there’s a lot of truth to the words. This piece from Stuff outlines that some of the loss of Māori land came through pressure in the legal system or dodgy deals with settlers, and some was just straight up confiscated by the government. The very existence of the Waitangi Tribunal is an acknowledgement of this.

Local Gisborne councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown says the conversations to come around the vandalism will be hard but necessary. Speaking to Radio NZ, she said she wasn’t in favour of vandalism, but saw it as a form of activism. “It is based on history and it’s based on that history never being given a chance to be spoken of, talked about or understood, and people want that.”

The idea of contested histories is going to become more and more important as the official ceremonies about Cook’s arrival get closer. On Te Ao News there was a recent story which highlighted just how important even how we talk about it will – at its heart, the story was about a dispute between MPs Kelvin Davis and Paul Goldsmith about whether the events should be commemorated or celebrated. It might seem like a small difference, but it conveys a vastly different interpretation of history. These are concepts museums have grappled with intensely over recent decades.

And the long legacy of those first encounters still holds weight, and arguably can still be seen playing out in seemingly unrelated news stories. Take, for example, recent comments in the NZ Herald (paywalled) by regional economic development minister Shane Jones, where he unloaded vitriol on the hapū Ngāti Oneone. They oppose extension of the Gisborne Port, which Mr Jones described as “hillbilly thinking.”

But Ngāti Oneone’s history in the area goes back far further than Mr Jones’ does, and while the minister himself is tangata whenua, in this situation he is a representative of the Crown. But Ngāti Oneone were there at that first contact with Cook – in fact their ancestor Te Maro was one of those shot dead by Cook, another representative of the Crown. Many will argue that such connections are irrelevant, because the country can’t live in the past. But to ignore less savoury aspects of New Zealand history would be to blind ourselves to relevant reasons as to why the country is how it is now.


You might have seen National MP Judith Collins’ comments around electric cars, that the manufacturers should sell them cheaper because there’s “precious little to them”. Fortunately, Driven writer Matthew Hansen has taken the time to patiently explain that there is in fact quite a bit to EVs, and also offers a deep analysis of why EV prices are in fact coming down. And if I can just offer Hansen another shout out, this analysis is an excellent pros and cons list about what the government’s feebate proposals on more emissions efficient cars will actually do.


Police are being deployed around Hamilton’s northern suburbs to combat a perceived crime wave, that they say isn’t actually happening. Stuff reports there has been a significant uptick in fears of crime among facebook groups based in the area, but police statistics don’t show any actual rise. In fact they say the areas resources are being devoted to – Flagstaff and Rototuna in particular – don’t actually have comparable rates of crime with other suburbs.


Gisborne mayor Meng Foon has been appointed as the new race relations commissioner, after many months of the job being vacant. He’s been profiled by Alice Webb-Liddall for The Spinoff, and a few relevant details jump out. Mr Foon has made great efforts to learn Māori language and worldviews, as well as having held leadership roles within the Chinese community. But one thing that I really like is this – he has composed waiata and even released an album.


Central and local government have clashed over the torturous cleanup of the Fox River, reports Radio NZ. Conservation minister Eugenie Sage’s view is that the Westland District Council haven’t had the money to pay for the cleanup due to their own financial mismanagement. However the district mayor Bruce Smith says the ratepayer base just isn’t there to pay for it, and the scale of the disaster took everyone by surprise. Around 20% of the river has now been cleaned.


I’ve talked repeatedly about how great Wikipedia is, and this guy’s story is inspiring beyond belief. Mike Dickison has been profiled by Farah Hancock at Newsroom – he travels the country encouraging people to contribute their knowledge and taonga to Wikipedia. Why? Many people, places events and species that have had a major impact on New Zealand have scant coverage on the platform, and his work has been to change that. Good on him and all of the other Wikipedia editors around the country.


This is a really good story and interview from Nine to Noon on the value of gorse in bringing back native bush. The work is significant because it took a combination of ecological knowledge, foresight and unconventional thinking to make happen, but has now resulted in a flourishing 15,000 hectare native forest. The person behind it all? A botanist called Hugh Wilson whose ideas were written off by many.


Don’t forget, later on this afternoon those of you who are Spinoff Members will be getting another Bulletin, covering some of the most important World stories right now. In today’s issue, a referendum that could get ugly in Australia, an explosive report connects Russian oil with the European far right, Sri Lanka eliminates measles, and other big stories from around the world. All the details on Spinoff membership can be found here.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Catherine Woulfe has some art-based activities that might be able to keep bored kids occupied over the school holiday. Duncan Greive has dived deep into the ratings war between TVNZ 2 and Three, symbolised by their champion shows Shortland St and The Block. Don Rowe visits the National Telehealth Service, which was dramatically expanded after the Christchurch mosque shootings. And Josie Adams looks at one of the longest lived shops in Ponsonby – the iconic Women’s Bookshop, which is about to celebrate 30 years.


For a feature today, we’ll have a piece that looks deeply into how online radicalisation can affect partners. A few months ago Mel Magazine spoke to a series of women whose boyfriends had been ‘red-pilled’ – for those who aren’t aware, it means joining a particularly toxic online male subculture. The results that are described are typically really frightening, and revealing of how the process can take place. Here’s an excerpt:

“I had to learn about what they were saying, quickly, so that I could try to debunk his view, or at least challenge them. And usually when we would debate these topics, it would end up in tears.” That’s because, “When I would try refute him, he would flip out. He would say that I was hysterical, that I was stupid and acting on my emotions rather than the facts, that I didn’t want to open up my mind to anything other than my left-wing views.”

Still, she hoped that he could at least see some of her perspective — that they could compromise, even when it came to her most deeply held convictions. “I was spending hours a day trying to get him to see other people’s views. But the more he would watch these videos, the more he reinforced his opinions. If I said something, he’d just send another video to ‘prove’ his point. He’d shut down conversations if I didn’t relent and agree with him. He wanted to debate things with me — but only up to a point. Eventually, he’d expect me to side with him.”


Radio NZ’s Ravinder Hunia may well have the best job in sports journalism right now, and she’s really making the most of it. After covering the Cricket World Cup, her latest piece is an analysis of the biggest threats the Silver Ferns will face at the Netball World Cup, which is due to start for the team tonight. It’s going to be a seriously challenging tournament for the Silver Ferns, even with their new direction under Noeline Taurua, because the rest of the world has got pretty good too.

Finally, the Cricket World Cup will be held this Sunday night, and the Black Caps will play England. The tournament hosts have smashed Australia in an utterly one-sided contest, chasing down a total of 223 with about 18 overs to spare. If you’re still not over how good the win over India was by the way, please feel free to listen to our latest episode of The Offspin – I don’t want to oversell it but it’s basically half an hour of delirious, sleep deprived ranting from Simon Day and myself. Enjoy the final, everyone.

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