Local iwi call for Hamilton to be renamed amid growing controversy

There are growing calls for Hamilton to be renamed after the statue of the city's namesake Captain John Hamilton was taken down on Friday.

Local iwi Waikato-Tainui is calling for the change amid growing outrage of monuments honouring controversial historical figures.

In an email to Hamilton City Council, Donna Flavell from the Waikato-Tainui said Hamilton must act to "purge itself of these blatant reminders of a colonial invasion".

"As you will be aware, many of the names of streets and places (including the name 'Hamilton') are named after colonial figures in our early history and are a stark reminder of the raupatu (land confiscations), resulting land wars and the consequential effects and impact of the raupatu to Waikato.

"This was a devastating time for our people and these injustices of the past, should not be a continual reminder as we look to grow and develop our beautiful city into the future."

They are calling for Hamilton to be replaced with the original Māori name Kirikiriroa, which means "long stretch of gravel" and is a reference to an area on the west bank of the Waikato River.

Honours such as town names and statues have been scrutinised during the protests against oppression after the death of George Floyd.

Flavell said the "international condemnation of these iconic figures is a timely reminder to us all".

"Therefore, we are renewing our call to begin the process of adopting Kirikiriroa as the original name of the town centre and replacing the affected street names listed in our original submission."

Earlier this week Waikato-Tainui requested the removal of the statue of Cpt Hamilton in Civic Square.

Hamilton killed Māori in the Waikato land wars and never set foot in the city that takes his name.

Local kaumātua Taitimu Maipi said he planned to topple the statue during a protest on Saturday, saying it was culturally offensive.

On Friday Hamilton's monument was taken down.

In a statement, Waikato-Tainui executive chairwoman Rukumoana Schaafhausen said the removal of the statue was a step in the right direction.

Schaafhausen said the iwi have been active in identifying street names and other landmarks that are particularly offensive.

"Our officials have been working with their Council counterparts for almost a year now after we raised it directly before councillors in an open session.

"Recent international attention has further enhanced the spotlight which has now placed the council as leading the National narrative on these matters and we encourage other councils across the country to take note of their response."