A Taranaki street named after a man responsible for the "murder of children and led the Parihaka invasion" is just one of the country's many colonial remnants that need to be removed, the Māori Party says.

Co-leader and Te Tai Hauāuru candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is calling on the Government to establish an inquiry to identify and remove racist monuments, statues and names from the country's colonial era.

"We have children, growing up proud of who they are, learning about history, and then seeing streets and parks named after racists who murdered their tūpuna," Ngarewa-Packer said.

"We are not saying wipe out colonial history - I am half Irish - but that these particularly offensive symbols, that represent a very dark and destructive part of our history, should not be out in mainstream places and parks continuing to cause offence and shame, but instead in museums."


The call comes as activists and governments around the world commit to bringing down statues and monuments symbolising racism and oppression, and historians here urge Kiwis to reflect on those in their own backyards.

This week the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, in the UK, was pulled down by Black Lives Matter protesters, following a rally against the death of African-American George Floyd and racial injustice.

In London, as the statue of prominent slave trader Robert Milligan was removed, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a Commission for Diversity would be formed, tasked with reviewing the British capital's statues and landmarks to ensure they "suitably reflect London's achievements and diversity".

In Aotearoa/New Zealand, hundreds of statues depicting colonial history are scattered across the country with little or no balance with Māori history, along with streets and places even named after slave traders who never set foot here, and city grids in the shape of the Union Jack in mainly Māori towns conquered by British forces.

"What we are seeing right across the world, led by our black brothers and sisters in the United States, is a global push to dismantle systemic racism, including the outdated symbols of that racism," Ngarewa-Packer said.

"We still honour some of the most racist and oppressive figures from our colonial history with monuments, statues and place names in towns and cities across the country."

She called on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is also Minister of Culture and Heritage, and her government to work alongside hapū and iwi, and other communities of colour, to undertake an inquiry into colonial monuments and statues, place names and street names.

In most cases local councils were responsible for monuments and place names, however, Ngarewa-Packer said there needed to be "nationwide leadership and an expert-led inquiry" to collectively address the issue.


Iwi and hapū had often called on local authorities for such changes, but were often up against an uphill battle.

"Māori are in the minority and often the more-conservative local councils do not want to take these issues on," Ngarewa-Packer said.

"I mean we had our Mayor of South Taranaki award a prize to a float featuring participants in black face - that is what we are up against.

"The Government needs to own the racism in this country, and not deflect responsibility to local authorities. It is happening all around the world - we need to take a lead on this."

Ngarewa-Packer said a starting point could be for Te Arawhiti, Office for Māori Crown Relations, to approach iwi and hapū across the country to get a stocktake of all particularly offensive mementos, and from there establish a panel to decide further action.

"We are not saying all monuments and names from the colonial period should be brought down or changed, that's why an inquiry should determine which of them are racist, outdated and should go."

Examples of those that needed to change were streets in Taranaki named after those who waged war on tūpuna Māori, including John Bryce, who was "responsible for the murder of children and led the Parihaka invasion", Ngarewa-Packer said.

"We can no longer hold up people who dedicated their lives to colonialism and the oppression of indigenous and black peoples as role models or symbols of reverence and pride.

"We should focus on celebrating those who brought us together and fought for the peace, justice and freedom of all peoples."

A spokesman for Ardern said discussions around such monuments were for "iwi and local councils, and decisions that should be made by individual communities".

"It's important we commemorate our past and the Government has recognised the comparative lack of monuments to prominent Māori.

This included funding the statue of Dame Whina Cooper, unveiled this year, and Te Arawhiti has funding available to support similar projects.

The Government had also made the teaching of New Zealand history a requirement in all schools and supported programmes around the history of the land wars.

"Memorials are one way to recognise our past, but a wider history and education programme will be the most effective way to redress any lack of balance in the telling of our national story," the spokesman said.

The spokesman did not directly respond to a question about the Government leading an inquiry.