Tairāwhiti iwi are calling on the Gisborne District Council to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and their partnership with iwi, following a decision by council to re-install two new Endeavour replica monuments without public or iwi consultation.
Two replica Endeavour ships were installed by the Gisborne District Council over 46 years ago, despite opposition by tangata whenua at the time. Recently they were taken down due to wear and tear.
In 2018, council agreed to financially support the replacement of these two replica ships after a fundraising effort led by former councillor Malcolm MacLean. Thirty-four people raised approximately $19,000, and the council has committed $28,000.
Captain Cook and his crew landed in Gisborne in 1769 and fatally shot several people over the course of the three days they were in the area.
Tangata whenua have always opposed the installation of monuments to Cook and the Endeavour in Tūranga (Gisborne), due to what they represent for Māori.
'Haerenga Awatea' peaceful protest organiser Raniera Proctor says, "Those ships represent sin and abuse, so we need to work together in peace, council must give life, not resurrect death."
The council recently voted against consulting tangata whenua, and the public, on the installation of the two replica ships despite highlighting the project as contentious and noting that would it likely invoke a negative response.
Gisborne District Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown, who was one of three councillors that opposed the decision to leave tangata whenua out of the decision, says, "I believe the Gisborne District Council is racist, I believe that institutionalised exists, and unconscious bias, they exist, because it permeates through all decision making spaces there’s a separatism there automatically, and I don’t think people have unpacked it."
The peaceful gathering was well-attend by over 200 local Māori leaders, kuia and kaumātua, a Knight, Māori ministers of different faiths, a strong presence of younger Māori and a number of conscious Pākehā as well.
Rongomai Smith, a teacher at a local school says, "I’ve brought along our students so they are prepared, and ready to continue the battles that their ancestors fought."
"It’s extremely racist. How could one possibly think otherwise? All of the decisions made in that building are catered to Pākehā in this region, not Māori", says Rongomai Smith.
Proctor emphasises that it is about honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the partnership between the council and iwi.
"Pākehā have forever been making decisions on Pākehā principles, it’s racist and self-serving. Māori are saying, 'that's enough'. Pay attention to the principles of Māori, and let us talk together to produce well-being for all", says Proctor.
Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown says, "Let’s not have another flare-up two months down the track. Let’s actually put a stake in the ground today, and say legislatively that crown and tangata whenua are partners, and let’s not do any more pretend agreements. They’re tiresome, they make us annoyed and angry, and they get us nowhere."
Mayor Rehette Stotlz, in statement to Te Ao, says, "As I’ve previously said, sometimes Council doesn’t get it right. When this happens, we know our community will voice their opinions and hold us accountable."
The council voted to revoke the decision to reinstall the Endeavour replicas in the original location, without consultation with the community. The next phase will be to consult with the community regarding the location for the replicas.