The New Zealand Herald
Statue gone by lunch but nothing else
The Hamilton City Council made a quick decision to remove the controversial Captain Hamilton statue but says that won’t happen to other city artwork.
The move has been criticised by 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 the Hamilton City Council’s boss arranged contractors to arrive at Civic Square and pull up the statue within hours of receiving a request from Waikato Tainui.
Despite Tainui and iwi being involved in the original consultation on the bronze statue seven years ago, Tainui’s email asking the council to remove the statue seems to have been the catalyst for its quick disappearance at a cost of $3000 to ratepayers.
In an email to council chief executive Richard Briggs, sent at 4.59pm on Thursday, Waikato Tainui chief executive Donna Flavell asked the council to consider the immediate removal of the statue from 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 Ma¯ori in the Waikato land war and never set foot in the city, she said.
“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 kauma¯tua Taitimu Maipi had already threatened to remove the statue himself.
Mayor Paula Southgate said she followed staff advice on the best course of action and called elected members on Thursday to tell them.
All agreed it was the best course of action except for councillors Margaret Forsyth and Angela O’Leary who she could not reach, she said.
Contractors arrived at the site early the next day and the controversial statue was gone by lunch time.
In a statement on Friday, Briggs said it was removed because it was contentious for a number of community members and because of safety concerns.
The $140,000 statue was approved by the council in 2013 after being donated by the Gallagher family. Minutes of the meeting at the time show Tainui and iwi were included in the consultation process.
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.”
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”.