Gisborne district councillors have voted to install two new replica ships of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, committing $28,000 of financial support for the build, while voting against consultation with Tairāwhiti iwi and the wider public.
Tūranganui a Kiwa artist Nick Tupara says, “We’ve got everything from Mt. Cook, to Cooks Beach and everything in between, and this nation is over a mono-cultural presentation of our history.”
Behind the initiative and leading fundraising efforts to supplement the council's contribution is former Gisborne district councillor, Malcolm MacLean, who says, “When I first came to Gisborne 46 years ago, coming down by Campion College and seeing those ships there, it was just fantastic. So we just think it’ll be a real highlight for the city.”
MacLean was a strong opponent of the dual-naming of Tūranganui a Kiwa / Poverty Bay in 2018. At the time, MacLean told Te Ao, “I've spoken to a person that's very deep in the history in the Gisborne area and he's informed me that Poverty Bay was named first.”
In regard to the new Endeavour ship replicas, councillors have voted for the option that, “May not meet the expectations of the wider community and Tairāwhiti Tangata Whenua, based on previously received negative feedback about the replicas and their historical significance to the Tairāwhiti region.”
Those who voted in favour were Mayor Rehette Stoltz; and councillors Bill Burdett, Andy Cranston, Shannon Dowsing, Amber Dunn, Sandra Faulkner, Larry Foster, Debbie Gregory, Pat Seymour, Terry Sheldrake and Kerry Worsnop. Those who voted against were Deputy Mayor Josh Wharehinga and councillors Meredith Akuhata-Brown and Tony Robinson.
An interesting decision, given that the arrival of the Endeavour and the re-enactments have been contentious issues in the community. A petition opposing the arrival of the replica Endeavour in 2019 was signed by over 1000 people.
In regard to the recent decision, Councillor Akuhata-Brown says, “It was a disappointing discussion in my view and lacked the intent of good partnerships which we often talk of but we don’t seem to act them out very well.”
Tupara says, "I have to question the process, on the way that we represent ourselves in 2020 and whether or not these images are the sort of images we need to encourage the growth and connectedness of our community today. I feel there hasn’t been sufficient discussion as a community to determine what images fit us and what images are just arriving and are getting imposed on us, and I have to question the appropriateness of that."
MacLean says, “I think it’ll encourage people to come visit these sites because I think they’re absolutely magnificent. The stories are great and Captain Cook is part of it.”
Tuia250, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage's $20m national commemoration for the arrival of Captain Cook and the Endeavour to Aotearoa in 1769, exposed unresolved conflict.
Tangata whenua in Tūranganui a Kiwa have it still fresh in their minds the death of Ngāti Oneone ancestor Te Maro who was killed at the hands of Captain Cook, along with eight other Māori who were shot over the three days that the Endeavour crew was in the area. In 2019, a formal expression of regret was offered by the British High Commissioner.
When asked what his thoughts are on tangata whenua being opposed to having permanent reminders of the Endeavour installed, MacLean says, “I just go back to WWI, WWII and Vietnam, same difference. They’re all things that shouldn’t have happened, perhaps, but they have happened and we all just have to move on.
"I think there’s good and bad all around the country to be quite frank with you, and I just think art is an art, is a piece of art, that people can like and dislike. It’s in the eye of the beholder really", says McLean.
Councillor Akuhata-Brown says, “What did we learn from Tuia250? We had iwi make a strong point and decision to not welcome the Endeavour replica to our bay, and PR (public relations) had to change a whole lot, and we had a civil ceremony in that space. There was a lot of tension in the region. So my question to this committee yesterday was, what did we learn from Tuia250 in respect to the Endeavour replica ship in our bay?”
There are no shortage of public monuments to Captain Cook in Gisborne. In 1906, a monument to Captain Cook was installed on what was formerly Ngāti Oneone land that had been seized under the Public Works Act for the creation of the Gisborne harbour.
Just last year, Tupara oversaw a community build to acknowledge Māori navigators as a platform for local iwi Ngati Oneone to share their story and balance out the colonial history. At the time, he told Te Ao News that it was important to, "Have our stories told and feel safe to do that in a town where most of the dialogue has only been around Cook."
Another monument to James Cook was installed on Kaitī Hill in 1969. The bicentennial commemorative statue and wall were installed without consultation or approval of local Iwi. The statue had been subject to social commentary over the years and in 2019, the statue was removed.
In 2000 a statue of James Cook was installed at the Tūranganui a Kiwa river mouth. Last year, the statue was the canvas for social commentary after being tagged on.
At the time, there was an outcry from many about the cost to ratepayers to clean off the tagging, with one person commenting to Te Ao News, "I found that very offensive. For a start, it's vandalism of public property which the ratepayers do pay for."
For the new Endeavour replica ships, the Council has spent $28,000.
“When is enough, enough, on that? When have we spent enough? When have we shown enough gratitude to those three days that he spent here in Gisborne, over the one thousand years that we as a people have occupied the Tairāwhiti?,” says Tupara.
MacLean says, “It’s important because it’s part of our history, all we’re doing is replacing what’s already been there for 46 years.”
Offering a Māori perspective, Tupara says, “We have manu (birds) here that are the rarest here in the world. The Tūturuatu (Shore Plover), this little manu, no representation at all. Yet we can do from mountain to sea on Cook but everything else misses out."
Tupara emphasises the importance of balancing the narrative.
“Shared history, recounting our stories, building our local heroes, giving us inspiration, absolutely we need to bring a balance. And our leadership has to ask themselves, where do they measure that? Where do they have a focus with that?," says Tupara.