Captain Cook statue relocated

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes
  • North Island: East Coast

Local iwi in Gisborne are welcoming the removal of a Captain Cook statue from the top of their ancestral mountain, Titirangi.

Speaking on behalf of local iwi, Ngāti Oneone, Barney Tupara says, “It was a long fight for the elders in earlier times who would stand in community meetings to condemn the statue standing on this mountain."

Known by many as the "Cook Plaza", the bicentennial commemorative statue and wall have been opposed by local iwi since their inception in 1969.  They say it disrespected their ancestors who were killed by Captain Cook on his arrival.

“Although we are happy at the moment, this statue represents the pain and hurt that is still being felt by many tribes of Tūranga and the wider East Coast," says Tupara. 

The statue has been subject to vandalism in recent years, sparking debate around its standing place on Tirirangi.

Titirangi was the fortified pā site of ancestress Hamo, who begat many tribes of Aotearoa.

“It's a new opportunity for the many tribes of this area to learn about the narratives of olden times and of our ancestors pertaining to this place," says Tupara.

Tupara believes a revamp at the location will allow a more balanced version of historical narratives to be told.

“We and other tribes and sub-tribes will continue to embark on this path, to correct the narrative...other monuments, as well as some of the place names in this town in Tūranga and Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.”

Tairāwhiti Museum will reinstate the statue and plaque on museum grounds.  Tairāwhiti Museum director Eloise Wallace says it will be displayed at the museum, not as a monument to Cook, but as a historical artifact that can help the community understand their changing perspective on the events of October 1769.

The statue will stand in time for the Tuia Encounters 250 programme in October.