Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz has admitted she regrets voting in favour of installing two new replicas of Captain Cook’s ship, Endeavour, in the city without consulting local iwi, and will now allow them to have their say.
Photo: Supplied / Cook Islands News
The district council has been under fire since it decided to permanently install the small-scale models on Gisborne’s Gladstone Road, without any public consultation, at a committee meeting last week.
Local iwi Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Oneone were blindsided by the move.
Many of their descendants fiercely opposed the 250-year commemoration of Cook’s arrival last year, which saw another replica of Endeavour voyage around the country – the event is a reminder of the nine ancestors who were shot and killed upon Cook’s arrival.
Stoltz has now admitted she made the wrong decision.
“I do regret that I initially thought, ‘yes we should consult’, and then when I listened to the sentiment, in the end, I voted to the contrary,” she said.
“I do think as a council we can do better and we should consult with the community.”
The new replicas are aluminium and will replace two old wooden structures which were removed from Gladstone Road years ago due to safety concerns.
Stoltz said she voted against public consultation after hearing the sentiment from councillors around the table who talked about the commitment the council made in 2018 to replace the old replicas.
But since speaking with iwi yesterday, she has changed her mind.
“I have spoken to councillors and called a meeting with councillors on Thursday so that we can discuss how we can get our community involved in this, because I do recognise that this is a significant matter for our community, and that the decision was made without offering the community to chance to express their views more fully.”
‘Our pou … of our people, by our people’
Ngāti Oneone spokesperson Nick Tupara said the council already knew how divided the community was about monuments marking Cook’s arrival, and consulting with them should have been obvious.
Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley
“Our leadership needs to take every opportunity that affords itself to continuously talk to its community and when it chooses not to then this is the kind of dilemma that’s left hanging for that community. I find the nature of that leadership to be somewhat disappointing.”
However, councillor Andy Cranston has defended his decision to not consult with iwi, saying he believed they would not have wanted to take part in the discussion about the new replicas.
“We have dealt with these issues in the past for quite a while and one of the matters that came up last year during our commemorations was that iwi didn’t want anything to do with Endeavour, they felt that it was something they didn’t want a bar of and that was their right and I absolutely support that if that’s the way they want to go, I can understand that,” he said.
“When they were saying that they didn’t want anything to do with Endeavour, I immediately have to go back and say, ‘well we’ve got a community here that is pretty much 50-50 split on these Cook monuments and whether they should be there or not’.
“My opinion was: if we went to the iwi and said to them, ‘where do you want us to put these endeavour models?’ They would not have an answer to that, because they would not want to then be held in a position where it is seen as them endorsing a location for the endeavours and supporting the installation.”
Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal
But contrary to Cranston’s belief, Tupara said iwi did want to contribute to the discussion, and he thought it could be an opportunity to explore how history could be remembered in new ways.
“I’m seeing it as new artwork and I’m excited about any artistic expression,” Tupara said.
“I think we should create pou but our pou needs to speak of our people and be by our people, and I think here is an opportunity to do just that.”
The council has made it clear the community must fund the installation costs of the new models themselves.