Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer calls for removal of colonial statues in New Zealand

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has called for the removal of colonial monuments, such as those of Gustavus von Tempsky (depicted above).
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has called for the removal of colonial monuments, such as those of Gustavus von Tempsky (depicted above). Photo credit: NZ History / Facebook

A Māori Party co-leader has called for an inquiry to identify and remove colonial monuments, statues and place names that symbolise racism and oppression.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told Magic Talk on Thursday there are people in New Zealand's history who've committed atrocities that don't deserve to have a platform and shouldn't be glorified.

While she acknowledged some people may not recognise the racism that's prevalent in some monuments and place names, that doesn't mean they're 'right' to have.

"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."

Ngawera-Packer says she wants to "glorify a balanced version of history" in New Zealand, and the question should be which monuments are kept.

"We're not saying first of all that they should all be pulled down. What we're saying is that there are some that no longer fit who we should be as a nation.

"You can sit there and say they're there as markers, well whose markers? They're there as one side of the history of this nation's marker. They can be pulled down and respectfully put in museums where their history is remembered."

The reason she's calling for an inquiry and not a commission is because it's quicker, easier and there can be a balanced discussion about what statues and names are "right" and "wrong".

She also hopes there's a mature discussion on the topic.

"This is about us celebrating yourself as a nation and having the integrity to say to our children the reason why this person is standing in this particular central area is because we're proud of them. I'm Irish, there are a hell of a lot of Pākehā people I'm proud of. I'd love to see Kate Sheppard, I'd love to see people who we absolutely respect."

Ngawera-Packer recognises concerns that removing statues and monuments could be seen as ignoring or changing history, but she says this isn't what she wants to happen.

"It's actually about repurposing and revisioning who we are, and making sure that as we celebrate who we are as a nation, it's indicative of everyone's collective history.

"It's really important not to knee-jerk react to this. What we're saying is there are people who have committed atrocities that do not deserve and should not be glorified."

Her calls follow a movement that originated in the United States where anti-racism protesters target and tear down colonial statues.

Just on early Thursday morning (local time), two statues of Christopher Columbus were pulled down - one in Richmond, Virginia and the other in St Paul, Minnesota.

Another incident also on Thursday saw a demonstrator in Portsmouth, Virginia critically injured after a statue of a Confederate soldier was toppled by protesters and fell on him.

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