Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters lambasts 'woke, mindless' calls for colonial statue removals

Winston Peters has launched a scathing attack on people suggesting New Zealand's colonial statues should be removed.

There have been calls to remove statues of colonial leaders and slave owners 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.

The debate this week made its way to New Zealand, with Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer calling for the country's colonial statues to be removed.

"Why do some woke New Zealanders feel the need to mimic mindless actions imported from overseas?" said Peters, referring to protests in the US and the UK where colonial statues have been vandalised, torn down, and thrown in lakes.

Earlier on Friday, a statue of Captain John Hamilton was removed from Hamilton's Civic Square following a request from Waikato-Tainui. The council said the request came amid "growing international drive to remove statues which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression".

But Peters said such moves are destroying history.

"A self-confident country would never succumb to obliterating symbols of their history, whether it be good or bad or simply gone out of fashion," Peters said in a statement. "A country learns from its mistakes and triumphs and its people should have the knowledge and maturity to distinguish between the two.

"The woke generation are the equivalent of a person with no long-term memory, stumbling around in the present without any signposts to guide them.

"Deal with it, grow up and read a book."

Peters isn't the only person speaking out against removing statues. University of Waikato Associate Professor of Māori and Indigenous studies Tom Roa said earlier this week instead of tearing controversial colonial statues down, it was more important to have a conversation about them.

But Ngarewa-Packer told Magic Talk on Thursday people who have committed atrocities in New Zealand don't deserve to be glorified.

"It may not appear racist to some, but to those who it affects and to those whose history was most impacted, it does. It just simply does, and it's wrong and we should be part of that solution."