Outside the Whanganui District Council is a bronze statue of John Ballance, the 14th Premier of New Zealand.
He also has a statue outside of Parliament House in Wellington. A street in Whanganui (Ballance St) is named after him and he is buried in the Heads Road Old Public Cemetery, under a colossal head stone stating: "To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die".
Previously, he had a statue at Pākaitore. However, it was not loved and had its head replaced by a pumpkin during the Pākaitore protest led by tāngata whenua of Whanganui-nui-tonu. It was later taken down by members of the public, and all that remains is a marble platform without a figure.
Why was his statue taken down by tāngata whenua? There is an untold story hidden behind colonial glorification misleading New Zealanders since the signing of the Treaty and Te Tiriti.
Te Tiriti, the Māori version of the Treaty was signed by Whanganui tūpuna Rereomaki, Turoa, and Mamaku. However, it was the Pākeha version that was relied upon in establishing events that we now call "history".
Like the documents, our history needs both sides, acknowledged, embodied and told correctly. Only this way can we truly know who we are, how we got here and the actions of the people we glorify.
And so, now there is a movement to have the Māori version of history about these statues told. The John Ballance statue was commissioned and paid for by the Whanganui District Council after its marble statue was taken down, made in bronze and placed outside of the council for security. This, however, didn't stop it being dressed up on Christmas day to bring attention to its presence.
This man legalised the selling of confiscated lands and the transport of poisoned sugar and flour to be consumed by Māori up the Whanganui River during the land wars against Titokowaru. Those same delivery carriages then came back full, with under-aged Māori women who were kept as housewives for the settlers. Some who escaped took soldiers of the Crown to court for their kidnapping.
Now, 2021 holds new opportunities for Whanganui and its council. A local government and Crown entity that has the opportunity to be a "good Treaty partner" and tell the true history of the man it glorifies.
By 2022 our rangatahi will be taught about the land wars and New Zealand history, and they deserve to know the truth. New Zealanders deserve to know the truth.
And so, I will be going to the secondary schools in Whanganui as a lawyer to assist in the preparation of teaching our true history. My programme will cover tikanga, te reo Māori and will teach elements of our Treaty settlements, youth justice and the legal system that our school leavers will be entering into. The programme will be consistent with NCEA accreditation requirements and is supported by the iwi.
Because why not? Whakatika, whakapai, whakatau: Make right, make good, make peace.
• Tāwhiao McMaster was born and raised in Whanganui and whakapapa to Te Atihau nui-a-pāpārangi, Ngā Poutama-nui-ā-awa, Ngāti Rangi and Waikato-Tainui. He is a Māori lawyer now based in Auckland and Whanganui, specialising in environmental, Māori and Treaty law.