Debate over pulling down controversial historical statues in New Zealand

Off the back of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, there is growing momentum around the world to bring down statues of people with dark pasts - including in New Zealand.

In Auckland's Albert Park there's a statue of New Zealand's eleventh Prime Minister and two-time governor Sir George Grey.

He was also responsible for starting the Waikato Wars which killed hundreds of Māori and snatched three million acres of land from iwi.

In Ōtāhuhu there's a 13-metre-tall monument honouring Colonel Marmaduke Nixon who, 200 years ago, was an early settler in the region.

Nixon was also the commander in charge of colonial cavalry forces which stormed the Waikato village of Rangiaōwhia, killing women, children and the elderly.

He had the town church torched which killed the people who were hiding inside.

But Tom Roa, an associate professor of Māori and Indigenous studies at the University of Waikato, says we shouldn't tear down statues of controversial colonial figures like Nixon.

"I'm not, unlike many of my relations, saying 'tear the damn thing down'. I'm saying let's have a conversation and if the people who were responsible for putting it up want to take it down, then that's fine. But we can't pull it down because two bads don't make a good," he told The Project on Wednesday.

"We've got to remember, like with the Colonel Nixon statue in Otahuhu, that he has a family, he has a story, we have no right to destroy that family's story. But we do have a right to ask that the context of that story be more carefully examined and more carefully talked about."    

He says instead of tearing the statues down, "more important is the conversation, our future should be more informed of their past so that it is our history".

Roa says it's great that New Zealand history will be a part of our schools' core curriculum.

"There's an opportunity there for prosperity."