NZ Council takes down Hamilton statue

Ben McKay
A statue of Captain John Hamilton has been taken down in the NZ city of Hamilton named after him

A statue of Captain John Hamilton has been taken down in New Zealand - not by Black Lives Matter protesters, but by the council.

As statues of colonialists are targeted by anti-racist groups around the world, Kiwis are also wondering what to do with their monuments to previous ages.

In Hamilton, the centre of the Waikato, the council moved on the statue before local Maori did.

Elder Taitimu Maipi announced his intention to tear down a statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, after whom the city was named, during a protest match on Saturday.

Mr Hamilton was a British commander who fought Maori during 19th century wars, and was, to Mr Maipi, a "murderous arsehole".

"I went up to my tribe today and told them I'm taking the statue out, I left my name at Hamilton City Council and said I'm taking it out," he told Stuff earlier this week.

"How can we accept that he's a hero when he's a monster who led battles?"

Citing community backlash and safety concerns, Hamilton City Council leaders decided to winch the life-sized bronze figure out of Civic Square on Friday, amid cheers from a few onlookers.

"I know many people - in fact a growing number of people - find the statue personally and culturally offensive," Mayor Paula Southgate said.

"We can't ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we.

"At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding between cultures and in the community, I don't think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps."

Waikato Tainui, a broader group of local Maori iwi (meaning community or tribe), have also renewed a push to revert to the city's original name; Kirikiriroa (meaning 'long stretch of gravel' or 'long stretch of land').

A previous mayor attempted to change the name of New Zealand's fourth-biggest city in 2018, only to withdraw amid criticism.

Iwi chief executive Donna Flavell said the city's name was one of many "stark reminders of the raupatu (meaning land confiscations), resulting land wars and the consequential effects".

"This was a devastating time for our people and these injustices of the past should not be a continual reminder as we look to grow and develop our beautiful city into the future," she told the NZ Herald.

Further Black Lives Matter protests are planned around New Zealand on the weekend, including Auckland and Wellington.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticised anti-racism protesters for disobeying social distancing rules at previous rallies; those restrictions no longer apply in New Zealand.