Hamilton City Council has decided to remove the bronze statue of Captain Hamilton from Civic Square after a formal request from Waikato-Tainui.
The request comes after a growing international drive to remove statues which are seen to represent cultural disharmony and oppression.
The bronze statue of Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was originally gifted to Hamilton City by the Gallagher Group in 2013.
Chief Executive Richard Briggs says the decision to remove the piece was made following a request from Waikato-Tainui yesterday. It had become clear the statue was likely to be vandalised.
“We know this statue is contentious for a number of our community members. It is the right thing for the Council to take the opportunity to look at the long-term plan for this artwork and determine where and how it might fit in to the city’s future.
“We also have public safety concerns. The statue is firmly embedded into Civic Square and sits on top of the Garden Place underground carpark. If the statue were to be forcefully removed from its current position, as has been indicated, it could severely undermine the integrity of the building below it. We can’t allow for that to happen so the removal of the statue will be coordinated in a professional and responsible manner.”
Mr Briggs says the removal of the statue will be the start of wider discussions with key city stakeholders. It was not about erasing history but instead understanding the wider context behind it.
“We have been working collaboratively with Waikato-Tainui for more than 12 months on a project to review culturally sensitive place names and sites. We understand this work is vitally important in raising awareness to cultural harm which has taken place.
“What I can say is the Council is absolutely committed to finding an amicable long-term solution for Waikato-Tainui, the Gallagher family and the wider Hamilton community.”
Mayor Paula Southgate agrees now is the right time to discuss the future of the Hamilton statue.
“I know many people – in fact a growing number of people – find the statue personally and culturally offensive. We can’t ignore what is happening all over the world and nor should we. At a time when we are trying to build tolerance and understanding between cultures and in the community, I don’t think the statue helps us to bridge those gaps.
“While I appreciate the statue was gifted to the city before my time on Council, we need to think about its role and potential location in the city.”
Mayor Southgate says Civic Square is not the right place.
“I initially raised my concerns with John Gallagher in November of last year and have spoken to him again recently. He was very understanding and receptive to having this discussion.”
The life-size artwork of Captain Hamilton was created by Margriet Windhausen who is well known in Hamilton for another bronze sculpture, The Farming Family.