Pulling down statues and changing names

There is renewed focus in different parts of the world to re-evaluate the appropriateness of statues and of place names.

This has come to New Zealand (increasingly commonly referred to as Aotearoa).

Newshub:  Bye Hamilton, hello Kirikiriroa? City mulls name change after statue’s removal

Hamilton City Council contractors this morning removed the statue of British army captain John Hamilton from the centre of town, after a formal request from the Waikato-Tainui iwi.

The removal has revived a wider debate about what should be done – if anything – with colonial-era monuments and names around the country.

Captain Hamilton died leading British forces in the Battle of Gate Pā in 1864, regarded as one of the most important battles of the New Zealand Wars.

Local man Kip Ormsby said the statue needed to be removed from public areas because it represented a painful time in history for Māori.

“I just believe it should go. Yes, it is a part of history, but for Māori people it’s not a good part of history,” Ormsby said.

“So why are we glorifying it for Māori people to see it every day? We believe he is responsible for a lot of the atrocities that happened to our people.”

Ormsby said the statue should be in a museum, with a plaque outlining his full history, allowing people to make up their own minds about what sort of character he was.

The Waikato-Tainui iwi formally requested the statue be removed last year.

It seems reasonable to me to not glorify Captain Hamilton.

The statue’s removal is only one part of a longer-term conversation the iwi is having with the council – they have been working together for more than a year on a review of culturally sensitive names and sites.

The removal of the statue of the city’s namesake begs the obvious question of whether the city should be renamed.

“We certainly favour Kirikiriroa over Hamilton,” Schaafhausen said. “Kirikiriroa was acquired as a result of the New Zealand Settlements Act passed in 1863, and that resulted in just over 1.2 million hectares of our land being confiscated.

“The name Hamilton does really confront us as the stark reminder of the raupatu – the confiscations.”

I think there are valid arguments for renaming Hamilton, perhaps as Kirikiriroa.

This of course raises issues of the names of other cities here, like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Those were all imported names, although they now refer to much wider city areas than they originally applied to.

Perhaps Dunedin could also be considered, but at least it is a Scottish name (for Edinburgh), and Scotland was also oppressed by England, so it doesn’t have the same overbearing colonial problems that some other names may have. But the Scottish were also colonisers.

Apparently the Robbie Burns statue in Dunedin’s Octagon is safe for now – No plans to remove statues in Dunedin

Dunedin statues and street names depicting historical figures with problematic pasts are unlikely to be scrapped.

A statue of Queen Victoria in Dunedin’s Queens Gardens was spraypainted with the words “Return stolen wealth Charles” and “Uphold Te Tiriti” last year.

There is also a statue of poet Robbie Burns in the Octagon.

Critics of Burns have alleged he planned to make his fortune in the slave trade before his early death.


But Te Runanga o Otakou kaumatua Edward Ellison said he saw no particular issue with any statues in Dunedin.

“Our focus is on developing our own narratives and seeing artworks that convey our stories, place names and associations, an area that has been neglected, we would suggest, for a long time.

“So while I welcome the discussion on the issue of racism and its negative legacy, how we might deal with the physical reminders, I am less focused on compared to seeing our stories being seen and told.”

Sounds like a sensible approach here.

There’s a lot of prominent street names linked to England and royalty – George, Princes, Great King and Queen streets as well as Victoria, King Edward and Prince Albert roads.

A childhood place name that seems very un-Kiwi and perhaps should be contentious is Cromwell.

Some name changes have already happened. Mount Taranaki is totally appropriate. Aoraki and Mt Cook seem to co-exist without much problem.

Of course the big one is the name of the country. I’d be happy for Aotearoa to replace the irrelevant and inappropriate New Zealand.

The country wasn’t new when Abel Tasman came here briefly in 1642 and he named it Staten Landt – it was later renamed Nieuw Zeeland or Nova Zeelandia by Dutch cartographers in 1646,  and it was later anglicised to New Zealand.

I know that people argue about the history and appropriateness of Aotearoa, but it is at last a lot more suitable than what we currenntly have.



Jones versus Gareth the Redeemer

Bob Jones has taken a swipe at Gareth Morgan in a letter to Wellington’s mayor. He seems to have also circulated the letter with sketches amongst media.

The Dominion Post reports Sir Bob Jones mocks Gareth Morgan in 5000m statue proposal.

And NZ Herald: Sir Bob’s idol threat: Gareth the Redeemer

Sir Bob has written a tongue-in-cheek letter to Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, saying he is willing to use land currently occupied by Solnet House, a building he owns in central Wellington, for the statue.

“We seek an exemption to that restraint so as to demolish the building and erect in its place, a 5000-metre high statue of the great Gareth Morgan, in celebration of his overwhelming wonderfulness.”

“The enclosed sketch illustrates the splendid visual impact on the city which doubtless will enthral all councillors, as it will every Wellingtonian.”


Sir Bob… also planned to construct a temple accommodating up to 8000 “Morganist pilgrims at a time, providing for continuous thanks-giving services to the Almighty for blessing our city with the Second Coming in the form of Mr Morgan”.

Jones also sent in sketches of how the statue and temple might look.

He went on to write that the self-made millionaire was humble and an “extraordinary genius” who deserved “nothing less”.

Sir Bob said he even received a letter from North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un, who offered to cover costs of building the statue.

The “desirable project” would be a “phenomenal economic boom” for the capital

Morgan responded to the Herald:

“Thanks Sir B for your ongoing adulation, ask the rest home to decrease the sugar in your diet.”

Morgan does quite a bit of good with all his money, but he leaves himself open to being had on.