What to do about Aotearoa's colonial statues?

The debate over the place of colonial statues across Aotearoa is taking centre stage - as is the long fight Māori have taken to bring them down.

A new study from the University of Otago says there's been a long line of symbols of colonial oppression being the target of Māori political action.

Professor Nick Wilson says the study found that a quarter of named statues have been attacked.

"A statue subject that had a history of colonisation related issues, related to injustice, particularly the theft of Māori land - those particular statues were most likely to be attacked."

Last year a contentious statue of Captain James Cook was removed from display in Gisborne. This followed decades of complaints from the descendants of the tūpuna who were shot and killed by Cook when he made landfall at Tūranga nui a Kiwa.

This month the Hamilton City Council removed a statue of Captain John Hamilton, who led invading colonial forces against Māori during the New Zealand wars.

The decision to remove his statue came after a long-running campaign by Waikato kaumatua Taitimu Maipi.

Prof Wilson says people protested against the captain Hamilton statue for years and that is just completely unsatisfactory,

"That process should have been resolved in a matter of months as it was so clear that that was an offensive statue."

For more than a century the names of settlers, Governors and colonisers have also loomed large in our biggest city Tāmaki Makaurau. Ngarimu Blair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei says it's time to have a conversation about who we choose to memorialise.

"Obviously Governor Grey gets people's hackles up, fair enough, he did a few things here in the city that we Ngāti Whātua aren't happy about.

"But we for a long time have been saying we want our stories told as well - given equal mana and weight - and we're always willing to work with people to do that."

The land on which Auckland was built was gifted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei rangatira - Apihai Te Kawau - to create what would become New Zealand's economic powerhouse.

While the hapū aren't calling for monuments to come down, Ngarimu Blair says change is coming.

"Our babies need to be learning the history of Aotearoa, of New Zealand, how we came here from the Pacific the hope of partnership between Pakeha and Māori and what that means today for us." 

Watch the panel discussion with indigenous rights advocate Tina Ngata, Waikato Tainui tribal historian Rahui Papa, sociology professor Joanna Kidman and senior lecturer Anaru Eketone.