Hamilton City Council made a quick decision to remove the controversial Captain Hamilton statue - but says it won't happen to any other of the city's artwork.
The move has been criticised by some art groups and a Hamilton MP who say there should have been a conversation with the entire community before the council ripped it out.
Instead Hamilton City Council's boss Richard Briggs arranged contractors to arrive at Civic Square and pull up the controversial Captain Hamilton statue within hours of receiving the request from Waikato Tainui.
The contractor had been contacted at 4pm to assess the potential damage to the underneath carpark if the statue was forcibly pulled out but the council claimed no instructions had been given to remove it at that stage.
Despite Tainui and iwi being involved in the original consultation on the bronze statue seven years ago - Tainui's email asking council to remove it seems to have been the catalyst for its quick disappearance.
In an email to Briggs sent at 4.59pm on Thursday, Waikato Tainui chief executive Donna Flavell asked the council to consider the immediate removal of the statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton in Civic Square.
Flavell said she was aware the council was meeting on Friday and asked him to put the request to councillors then.
She also asked the council to rename the city Kirikiriroa.
Hamilton - who the city was named after - killed Māori in the Waikato land war and never set foot in the city.
"Hamilton has an opportunity to lead the national narrative on this issue and we encourage the city to be bold as they navigate their way forward," her email said.
Huntly kaumātua Taitimu Maipi had already threatened to remove the statue himself, amid a wave of protests against racism after the killing of African-American George Floyd by United States police.
But before councillors could vote an executive decision was made to uproot the 7-year-old statue at a cost of $3000 to ratepayers.
Mayor Paula Southgate said she followed staff advice around the best course of action and then called elected members on Thursday night to tell them.
All agreed it was the best course of action except for councillors Margaret Forsyth and Angela O'Leary whom she could not reach, she said.
Contractors arrived at the site early the next morning and the controversial statue was removed by lunch time. Southgate said contractors were "definitely not" commissioned until the night before.
In a statement on Friday, Briggs said it was removed because it was contentious for a number of its community members and because of safety concerns.
"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."
The $140,000 statue was approved by council in 2013 after being donated by the Gallagher family. Minutes of the meeting at the time show both Tainui and iwi were included in the consultation process.
MESH Sculpture Trust chairwoman Nancy Caiger, who helped manage the Captain Hamilton project for Gallagher, said council had a rigorous process which included sign off from iwi before art was installed on council land.
Caiger said if iwi had disapproved of the sculpture then it would not have progressed to the next stage.
Former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans, who is involved in TOTI which works to bring art works recognising the Hamilton's history to the city, said it was disappointing the statue had been removed without a widespread conversation.
"The council has had for some years a formal public art process that seems to have been disregarded. I do understand the concerns about safety and security but believe there are other ways this could have been handled and dampened down.
Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe posted online that the council had set a dangerous precedent.
"When a criminal act is threatened, police should be notified. If vandalism is intended, the target should be protected."
But Southgate said there wasn't time for a formal council meeting because of the threats it would be attacked and Friday's meeting was "pretty full".
She called it a short-term solution and said the Gallagher family was supportive of plans to remove it before it was damaged.
She did not know whether the council had considered getting security instead.
The statue was being stored in a secret council facility while there were urgent discussions with councillors and the wider public about what they would like to see happen to it long-term. This could include requests around changing the name of the city and some streets.
"There is absolutely no reason why any other statue will disappear overnight."
Deputy mayor Geoff Taylor supported it coming down from a public safety standpoint only - and not just because one group asked for it and saw no reason for any others to be removed.
There had been a mix of feedback both for and against the move.
In the past councillors have been involved in deciding what happens to controversial art work. In 2015, it voted to relocate the $150,000 Passing Red sculpture alongside the Te Awa River Ride cycleway in Horotiu.
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