Marton's James Cook statue will stay in the main street - but Rangitikei District Council plans to educate the community about Marton's history, both Māori and European.
The statue has been covered by a wooden box since June 17 after Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson and council chief executive Peter Beggs were advised by police that there was a risk of vandalism as debate raged about the place of colonial-era memorials in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After a consensus vote at Thursday's council meeting, the wooden box over the statue was removed yesterday. Although the statue will remain, the council has removed the plaque that says Cook was the discoverer of New Zealand.
On June 23 the council held a workshop to discuss the debate around the statue and Watson said they had engaged with iwi, Ngāti Apa.
Te Roopu Ahi Kaa and Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa chairman Pahia Turia has said the Iwi Rūnanga believes removing statues and monuments doesn't address the fact that communities in New Zealand do not have an adequate understanding of shared Māori and European history.
At this week's council meeting, Watson gave every councillor an opportunity to express their view and he then looked for a consensus to decide the fate of the statue.
He also outlined options which included removal or relocation of the statue.
Watson said the fact the district was "able to have those conversations" was a significant step forward and spoke volumes about where the district was at.
"We still have a lot to learn, this has possibly given us an opportunity to carry on that conversation because it shouldn't be about that statue, and Ngāti Apa absolutely recognise that."
Marton needs 'courageous conversation' about Cook statue
Councillor Dave Wilson said although the statue may be offensive to some, putting a box around it is equally offensive to others.
"To have a more meaningful conversation going forward the box needs to come down and I think the plaque should be removed to show our intention of having a further discussion about the matters this subject has actually raised and I really look forward to coming out of it somewhat more educated on the subject matter," Wilson said.
Councillor Waru Panapa said the existence of the statue is not the issue as it is about an understanding of the partnership between Māori and Pakeha and the connotations of the word "discovery" that run deep.
"The prerequisite to resolution of this issue is justice and that's a long, long conversation that needs to take place," Panapa said.
"That's what I would support. It would not solve anything to either destroy, remove, move the statue itself because the statue doesn't actually represent much of anything - it's just a man who's a historical figure."
He said relocating the statue would only remove a sore point for those who perceive it as an offensive mark in history.
"If there are Māori that feel that even the presence of that statue is offensive, that's a conversation we need to have in terms of how do we move the offensive; it's about addressing the wounds that have been inflicted as a result of those histories."
The council also decided it would pursue an education initiative to teach the history of European-Pakeha and Māori-iwi in Marton and would explore how this could be done.
Councillor Fiona Dalgety said it was an opportunity to document the history of the district, both European and Māori, and the district should share its stories so everyone is aware of it.
"I would like to see it being acknowledged in our schools and recognised, and deciding on that story I would like us to work closely with local iwi on identifying what is actually said there."
Councillor Angus Gordon said the council needed to help the district become more informed because a lot of information should be in the public arena.
"It's not that it's confidential, it's just people don't know where to find it and I think we have a real role for our libraries to place that information."
Marton was originally called Tūtaenui but was renamed in 1869, the centenary of Cook's first sighting of New Zealand, after Marton in Yorkshire, England, where Cook was born.
Cook spent 328 days along New Zealand's coastline during his three voyages between 1768 and 1779.
"Cook's relations with the Māori were frequently taut and ambivalent. He made every effort to avoid bloodshed and yet Māori were killed on all but the third voyage," the Te Ara Encyclopaedia of NZ says.
The New Zealand History website describes Cook's record as "ambivalent" because despite his restraint, violent encounters still took place.
Yet Cook has also been praised for his humanity, as well as his "concern for the health of his crews and his efforts to fight off scurvy and other diseases", the Te Ara Encyclopaedia of NZ says.