Captain John Hamilton statue to be removed from Hamilton's Civic Square

A statue of Captain John Hamilton will be removed from its position in Hamilton's Civic Square.

The Hamilton City Council said in a statement on Friday it had received a formal request from Waikato-Tainui to have the statue removed.

"The request comes after a growing international drive to remove statues which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression."

The city was named after Hamilton, a regiment leader at the Battle of Gate Pā during the New Zealand Wars - and was a "murderous asshole", local kaumātua Taitimu Maipi told Stuff.

"We know this statue is contentious for a number of our community members," council chief executive Richard Briggs said.

Statues of slave owners and colonial leaders have become an issue of contention throughout the world following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a US police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest. Labour MP Willie Jackson told The AM Show on Friday Māori have hated colonial statues throughout New Zealand for a long time.

The statue.
The statue. Photo credit: Hamilton City Council

"They always had a lot of problems with the statues that represented colonisation and a lot of Māori in those days wanted to go and chop all their heads off - some did."

Briggs said taking the statue of Hamilton down was the right thing to do.

"We also have public safety concerns," said Briggs, appearing to refer to threats made by the public to tear the statue down this weekend.

"If the statue were to be forcefully removed from its current position, as has been indicated, it could severely undermine the integrity of the building below it.

"We can't allow for that to happen so the removal of the statue will be coordinated in a professional and responsible manner."

The council said it doesn't yet have a long-term plan for the artwork, which was erected in 2013.

University of Waikato Associate Professor of Māori and Indegenous studies Tom Roa said earlier this week controversial colonial statues shouldn't be torn down.

He told The Project that instead of tearing the statues down, it was more important to have a conversation about them. 

"Our future should be more informed of their past so that it is our history."