Cook statue in Tūranga vandalised yet again

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Captain Cook statue in Tūranga Gisborne has been vandalised yet again over the weekend, raising questions on whether or not it should be moved, following national and international movement to remove colonial statues as symbols of colonisation and oppression.   

On the front, “Black Lives Matter and so do Māori, has been spray-painted in black along with two Nazi swastikas and the words, “raped young ...”

On the back, “Take this racist headstone of my people down before I do," has also been spray-painted in black.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz told Te Ao that she wasn’t surprised it was vandalised and this showed the need for the council and the community to keep having those "awkward conversations."

“So they are part of the discussions we started having during Tuia250 where there is recognition that statues around Gisborne were not reflecting our Māori heritage as well, and that is where the beautiful Te Maro and the Puhi Kaiti site were incorporated to tell our rich bicultural histories, so that is part of that discussion", Stoltz says. 

On the statue a plaque says, "... Captain Cook was one of the last of the great explorer navigators and the first of the scientific expedition leaders ... When traditional challenges were misunderstood, Māori were killed ... and the ship sailed without provisions, and thus Poverty Bay received its name."

Asked if she thought the statue was a fair representation of history, Stoltz acknowledged that it only tells Cook’s side of the story.

“In my time we’ve never had the discussion about the statue at Waikanae. As you just mentioned, in the past few years we did discuss with Ngāti Oneone the ‘crook Cook’ statue, which is now in storage and we’ll find a new place for it, I think at the museum.”

When asked if the Cook statue at Waikanae should be moved as well, Mayor Rehette Stoltz said that would be part of discussions with iwi and the public.

“Absolutely we want to have these discussions with our community. As I said in the past two weeks our community sent a clear signal to us. This is important to them and they want to be part of that decisionmaking so, as a council, we look forward to those conversations.”