Bye bye, captain: Maori boot ‘murderous’ Cook off their hill
New Zealand tribe say statue of the 'crooked' Brit explorer doesn't belong on their ancestral spot
A statue of Captain Cook will be removed from a hill in New Zealand following protests by local Maori who say their ancestors arrived long before the British explorer.
Council officials in Gisborne on the North Island say they will relocate the 1969 monument which has been repeatedly defaced by vandals who have discoloured it, stolen its sword and painted a bikini and sandals onto it.
Critics have described Cook, who landed in the area aboard HMS Endeavour in 1769, as a “murderer” and “crooked Cook”. Leaders of the Ngati Oneone tribe say historical records show that Cook’s crew shot nine of their people, killing six, and that his arrival was eventually followed by European settlement, which led to their dispossession and the demise of their culture.
Meredith Akuhata-Brown, a Gisborne councillor, said officials voted unanimously to move the statue, which stands atop a local ancestral mountain known as Titirangi, to a museum as part of the 250th anniversary commemorations of Cook’s arrival. She said it might be replaced by a statue of Raikaitane, the Maori chief at the time of Cook’s landing.
“It’s significant because James never climbed Titirangi ... and so for local iwi [tribespeople] it’s been a massive disappointment that he’s maintained that space for as long as he has,” she told Radio New Zealand.
The statue has long stirred controversy, not least because it was apparently made by an Italian sculptor in Sydney who depicted Cook in Italian clothing. The council said the plaza at the top of the mountain will be redesigned to “celebrate the Maori history of this area and the ancestors who arrived here before Captain Cook”.
“The Cooks Plaza will be upgraded so that iwi stories and cultural design elements can be shared from this significant location ... to create an aesthetic and safe gathering space,” the council said.
Authorities will also consider renaming Poverty Bay, the local bay named by Cook after he landed there but could not resupply his ship. The New Zealand Geographic Board indicated its support this week to adopt a dual name for the bay – Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay – to incorporate its Maori title.
There has been a growing push in New Zealand to remove statues of colonial figures, particularly those involved in attacks on local Maori civilians. Australia has also experienced growing debate about the role of Captain Cook in the nation’s history. Several statues of him have been vandalised, including one in Sydney’s Hyde Park, which was spraypainted with the words: “No pride in genocide.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a R500m revamp of the main monument in Sydney that commemorates Cook’s arrival in 1770. He said it would be “sensitive” and would include a memorial dedicated to Australia’s first inhabitants.
– © The Daily Telegraph