6 Sep 2017

Call for Ōtāhuhu colonial leader memorial to go

5:21 pm on 6 September 2017

An Auckland man is challenging the mayor and council to begin a conversation about removing Ōtāhuhu's statue to infamous colonial commander Colonel Marmaduke Nixon.

Shane Te Pou said Auckland mayor Phil Goff should open up a conversation about removing the memorial and the colonel was nothing more than a thug.

Col Nixon offered to recruit troops and later led attacks on Waikato Māori in what are now known as the New Zealand Wars.

In February 1864, he took 1500 colonial troops into the village of Rangiaōwhia, where elderly men, women and children were living, leaving 12 people dead.

Col Nixon was shot and his troops set alight a building where the last defenders had gathered, said to be the town's church.

He died about three months later, in May.

The 13m obelisk in his name stands in a triangular reserve on Great South Road at the south end of the Auckland suburb.

Mr Te Pou said he had looked into the monument after his children asked about it.

Shane Te Pou is putting together a petition to have the Nixon memorial removed from Otahuhu.

Shane Te Pou Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"You know, they asked me what that was about and I went and read it and studied it and I thought, 'What, we have a commemoration in modern New Zealand to this guy?' ... How do we explain this to our kids?"

It was not right for such a figure to be memorialised, he said.

"I think it ought to be removed. I'm not saying totally, I think it is part of our history but it needs to be put in a museum and we need to have a debate and discussion about it.

"But it certainly ought not to be out there standing in memory of who I think was a thug, a man who raised a militia and then went down to Te Awamutu and killed innocent women and children."

But Ngāti Āpakura and Ngāti Hinetū kaumatua Tom Roa - a descendant of the survivors - said he would not support removing the obelisk, because a conversation needed to be had to improve New Zealanders' understanding of our past.

Ngāti Maniapoto elder Dr Tom Roa.

Ngāti Āpakura and Ngāti Hinetū kaumatua Tom Roa is descended from those who survived the 1864 attack. Photo: Supplied

"I think it's essential that these hidden parts of our history are brought to light and that conversations between Pākehā New Zealanders.

"It has to be a concern that the leader of those troops, Colonel Nixon, is memorialised for courage, bravery when he led this atrocity perpetrated on our Ngāti Āpakura, Ngāti Hinetū."

Prof Roa said he had not known the monument existed.

"This is one of the most ignominious events in New Zealand history which has been overlooked, marginalised, hidden in our history."

Susan Ramsey, a tutor of Ngāti Te Ata, who had an emotional response after discovering who Colonel Nixon was.

Susan Ramsey, of Ngāti Te Ata, was overcome by emotion after learning about Col Nixon's role in the New Zealand Wars. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Susan Ramsey, of Waikato iwi Ngāti Te Ata, who works across the road from the Nixon memorial as a tutor, was overcome by emotion after learning about Col Nixon's role.

"Aroha, tangi te ngakau ... I don't think it's appropriate to pay homage to someone who would do something [like this], especially to our women."

Marcia Stockill, who was strolling through the reserve, told RNZ she did not think the memorial should remain, once she had learned about the colonel.

"Oh, that's where you read, 'Waikato campaign: In memory of the brave men and women who served their queen and country in the Māori War.'

"So in effect, this is a colonial monument, but it will be on the side of the British. There's no reason why the Māori people can't put their own monument up to their dead."

"If that is verified as to what happened then I'm going to have to agree. I don't think that should be there."

Retiree Graham Stevenson was enjoying a beer with a couple of friends at the local Ōtāhuhu Tavern.

"I don't know much about that one, that must have been the Waikato land wars. I don't know much about that.

Graham Stevenson

Graham Stevenson Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

He was keen for the statue to remain.

"I say, it's been there that long, bloody just leave it there ... If they want to build another one, well yeah, put another one wherever they want to relocate it.

"That's entirely up to them. I suppose that's the Māoris though."

Ms Ramsey did think there should be some kind of commemoration of what had happened.

"I think that there should be a monument maybe to recognise that hara or what happened there ... And to raise awareness too of the Waikato wars and how little we obviously know."

Mr Goff said if there was sentiment in the community that the other side of the story needed to be told, then he would not be opposed to it.

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