The man who sparked the removal of a statue representing "colonial invasions" says it is only the start of a journey for New Zealand to address its racist history.
Rahui-Pōkeka/Huntly kaumatua Taitimu Maipi, of Waikato Tainui, had said he was personally going to remove the statue of British Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, who killed Māori in the Waikato land wars and never set foot in the city which takes his name.
He even suggested the Mongrel Mob could be involved in the action, which had been due to take place tomorrow. Hamilton City Council responded rapidly and, after also receiving a blunt message from Waikato-Tainui chief executive Donna Flavell, removed the statue this morning, citing safety and community concerns over its offensiveness.
Maipi, 80, said he was in a way "relieved" he wasn't going to have to physically remove it himself.
"We had a plan. But I am very pleased and happy to see the mayor and the council take such quick action, to take a lead on this, as we see outrage grow around the world."
Maipi said it was a "stupid decision" to install the statue with no consultation in 2013, after it was gifted to Hamilton City by the Gallagher Group.
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Hamilton was a British officer who led a detachment of the 43rd regiment at the Battle of Gate Pā against Māori in Tauranga during the New Zealand Wars. He died during that battle in 1864.
"He was an a**hole, who murdered our people, yet he stood there, depicted as a hero," Maipi said.
"There was no balance, nothing to indicate the other side of the story, of Māori who also fought, and who even cared for wounded British soldiers. In a way if there was [that balance], I think that would have been okay."
In 2018, after voicing his frustration to no avail, Maipi took action, spraying red paint on the statue and attacking it with a hammer.
He also called for the city to rid itself of the colonial title and be renamed Kirikiriroa, its original Māori name from hapū Ngāti Wairere meaning "long stretch of gravel", a reference to an area on the west bank of the Waikato River; and for streets named Bryce, Grey and Von Tempsky - named after those who led battles against Waikato iwi - to be addressed.
Authorities took notice.
In March 2019, Hamilton City Council and Waikato-Tainui announced they would work together to produce a report into the cultural sensitivity of names of council-controlled sites.
Today, the iwi welcomed the removal of the statue and reiterated its call to have the city renamed, urging the city to "purge itself of these blatant reminders of a colonial invasion that breached every article of the Treaty of Waitangi".
Maipi said the name Hamilton had to go.
"This statue is just the start. There are similar ones all over the country representing war and the impoverishment of our people - I can't speak for others, but hui need to be had.
"I think the mayor did a good job here this morning, but removing the statue is just a small step - we need to change the name."
A name change would now be the focus of the protest march to take place in the city tomorrow.
Maipi also wants Huntly, where he was born, to adopt its Māori name, Rahui-Pōkeka, which referred to the bountiful eels in the area and how they were shared among hapū.
The name Huntly was adopted in the 1870s, after the home town of Scots settler James Henry.
"It is about having names and monuments that really reflect who we are and where we come from," Maipi said.
It would be "wonderful" for his 23 mokopuna and their tamariki to grow up in such a country that proudly reflected its true history, he said.
"When I was growing up at college there were no stories told about us, it was just about British leaders.
"Now, young people are learning more about our history, are proud of who they are and starting to question why these racist names and monuments remain.
"Removing that statue is just the beginning of a journey to address racism in this country, to create change that will be in the best interest for all of New Zealand."
Mayor Paula Southgate said as of yet there had been no discussion about changing the name of the city at council level, but she herself used the "dual names".
But she said a growing number of people found the statue personally and culturally offensive.
"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."