Hamilton City Council has removed a colonial statue from its centre as global protests against racism and colonisation grow.

The bronze statue is of British Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton, who killed Māori in the Waikato land wars. He never set foot in the city which takes his name.

A small crowd of about 50 curious onlookers gathered to watch the removal - a few of them cheered as the statue was lifted onto a truck and taken away.

There was no police presence during the removal.

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There were cheers as the bronze statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was removed this morning. Photo / Tom Rowland
There were cheers as the bronze statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was removed this morning. Photo / Tom Rowland

The statue was gifted to Hamilton City by the Gallagher Group in 2013. The move to remove it comes after a formal request from iwi Waikato-Tainui on Thursday, amid a growing international drive to remove statues which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression.

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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.

A crowd of about 50 people gathered to watch. Photo / Tom Rowland
A crowd of about 50 people gathered to watch. Photo / Tom Rowland

In 2018, Huntly's Taitimu Maipi vandalised the statue in protest.

He also called for the city to rid itself of the colonial title and be renamed Kirikiriroa, its original Māori name, and for streets named Bryce, Grey and Von Tempsky - named after those who led battles against Waikato iwi - to be addressed.

Maipi told Stuff on Saturday he had planned to pull the Hamilton statue down during a protest.

This prompted council chief executive Richard Briggs to issue a statement this morning, saying the decision to remove the statue was made following a request from Waikato-Tainui yesterday, as it became clear the statue was likely to be vandalised.

"We know this statue is contentious for a number of our community members.

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The statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton being removed. Photo: Photo / Andrew McRae
The statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton being removed. Photo: Photo / Andrew McRae

"It is the right thing for the council to take the opportunity to look at the long-term plan for this artwork and determine where and how it might fit in to the city's future.

"We also have public safety concerns. The statue is firmly embedded into Civic Square and sits on top of the Garden Place underground carpark.

"If the statue were to be forcefully removed from its current position, as has been indicated, it could severely undermine the integrity of the building below it.

"We can't allow for that to happen so the removal of the statue will be coordinated in a professional and responsible manner."

The removal of the statue would be the start of wider discussions with key city stakeholders.

It was not about erasing history but instead understanding the wider context behind it, he said.

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Council workers put up cones and remove paving stones as they prepare to remove the bronze statue of Captain Hamilton from Civic Square. Photo / Tom Rowland
Council workers put up cones and remove paving stones as they prepare to remove the bronze statue of Captain Hamilton from Civic Square. Photo / Tom Rowland

"We have been working collaboratively with Waikato-Tainui for more than 12 months on a project to review culturally sensitive place names and sites. We understand this work is vitally important in raising awareness to cultural harm which has taken place.

The council was "absolutely committed" to finding an amicable long-term solution for Waikato-Tainui, the Gallagher family and the wider Hamilton community, he said.

Mayor Paula Southgate 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.

"While I appreciate the statue was gifted to the city before my time on the council, we need to think about its role and potential location in the city."

This morning, council workers put up cones and started removing paving stones as they prepared the statue.

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Dr Arama Rate of University of Waikato was on the scene.

"I came down as I saw the news online and because I was pleasantly surprise that Hamilton City Council was taking the initiative to remove it.

The bronze statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was originally gifted to Hamilton City by the Gallagher Group in 2013. Photo / Hamilton City Council
The bronze statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was originally gifted to Hamilton City by the Gallagher Group in 2013. Photo / Hamilton City Council

"They usually don't take these sorts of steps when it comes to racial diversity so I'm happy that this is being done ahead of the Black Lives matter protest in Hamilton tomorrow.

"I would like to see it either destroyed or in a watery grave."

This week a statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, 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".

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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.

On Thursday Māori Party co-leader and Te Tai Hauāuru candidate Debbie Ngarewa-Packer called 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.