Local tangata whenua are happy to hear a statue of Captain Cook will finally be removed from Titirangi, a mountain sacred to Ngāti Oneone in Gisborne.
Local Māori have opposed the statue since its inception in 1969. Repeatedly vandalised—with a bikini and pair of jandals and red paint smeared across its face and coat—in recent years, the statue has sparked heated debate about the celebration of European colonisation.
Ngāti Oneone representative Barney Tupara said that, according to historical records, Cook’s arrival in Poverty Bay, one of the first major meetings of Europeans and tangata whenua, was violent. Cook’s crew shot nine Māori men, including Tupara’s ancestors. Six of the men are believed to have been killed.
With the 250th anniversary of Cook’s first arrival in Aotearoa just one year away, the Gisborne District Court decided it was time to take the statue down and replace it with ‘cultural designs’ that represent the stories of tangata whenua. The statue will be re-homed at Tairāwhiti Museum.
Tupara said the statue’s removal will mean a more balanced version of the area’s history can be told. We can “celebrate the Māori history of this area and the ancestors who arrived here before Captain Cook,” he said.
Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown also said the move would allow “our heritage stories being told from both sides, but also truth, which is what we want—we want honest narrative.”