Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters today says he’s outraged over the “wave of idiocy” from the “woke generation” amid removals of historic statues around the country.
“Why do some woke New Zealanders feel the need to mimic mindless actions imported from overseas,” Mr Peters said.
His comments come as the activists and governments around the world committed to remove statues and monuments that symbolise racism and oppression as support grew for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mr Peters said if New Zealand was a “self confident country” it would “never succumb to obliterating symbols of their history, whether it be good or bad or simply gone out of fashion”.
“A country learns from its mistakes and triumphs and its people should have the knowledge and maturity to distinguish between the two,” he said.
He asked “what’s next?” for the country’s cenotaphs if we didn’t approve of war or if knighthoods to those undeserving be withdrawn posthumously.
“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,” Mr Peters said.
“If a person, like a country, doesn’t know where they have come from, they have no way of knowing where they are going.”
Mr Peters offered some advice for those tearing down historic statues: “Deal with it, grow up and read a book.”
Today, Hamilton City Council removed a statue of a British naval captain involved in the Battle of Gate Pā from Civic Square.
The removal followed a formal request from Waikato-Tainui.
Meanwhile, the Christchurch City Council said it wasn't considering taking down any of the city’s colonial era statues, including that of Captain James Cook.
There were remnants of blue paint on the Cook statue today. The council said the vandalism occured over Queen's Birthday weekend.
In a joint statement from Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Ngāi Tūāhuriri Upoko Dr Te Maire Tau, they said discussions on colonial monuments needed to occur within the context of the relationship between iwi and the Crown.
"It is entirely appropriate that the statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Square is now flanked by two upright waka carved by Ngāi Tahu master carver Fayne Robinson.
"It is an expression of our partnership that we now have Ngāi Tahu Treaty signatories sitting alongside Queen Victoria."
They said there were other colonial statues and place names in the city "that we would hold with less regard".
"Ngāi Tahu do not care to celebrate them but they do represent the beliefs of that time and the community should own their past."
Christchurch City Council said it didn’t receive formal complaints regarding the statues.
The Māori Party on Wednesday called for an inquiry into all of the colonial monuments and statues around New Zealand.
Māori Party Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said: “What we are seeing right across the world, led by our black brothers and sisters in the USA, is a global push to dismantle systemic racism, including the outdated symbols of that racism.
“We still honour some of the most racist and oppressive figures from our colonial history with monuments, statues and place names in towns and cities across the country.”