National MP Todd Muller is showing his true worth as a leader of the Party. In a speech at the Te Puna Rugby Club on the weekend he has added his thoughts to the debate about the removal of the Captain Hamilton statue.
That statue of course was removed at the initiative of Hamilton's first term Mayor, Paula Southgate, after a Maori sovereignty activist threatened to deface it. Presumably the Black Lives Matter protests presented the perfect opportunity for him to do so again, having already defaced it in 2018.
Here's what Mr Muller is reported to have said: "It's not for a leader of a political party to say what statue goes or stays…One of the strengths of our country is we are able to have the capacity for conversations like this."
Great to have that cleared up!
Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, was more decisive. He said he had "very clear views" on what should happen to the Captain Hamilton statue. Unfortunately it is not clear what those clear views are because he did not want to say anything that might contradict the views of Mr Muller! That response is even more remarkable in that it's hard to decipher what Mr Muller's views actually are.
Presumably the entire National party caucus is likewise silent on this view lest they say something that differs from the view of their leader. From this one can take it that the National Party do not place a great deal of value on personal opinion. Are National Party members not allowed to have differing views?
The Hamilton Mayor's actions were understandable. Weak, but understandable if someone fears conflict and is easily intimidated. The challenge the Mayor has is how to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the majority of her constituents. Apart from trying to hold onto a 3000 vote margin, the problem she now has is that the "Hamilton" issue is already moving on to the name of the city itself, and a call to change the name to Kirikiriroa. Changing place names is of course is the next step on the rung for activists who want Maori regain control of Aotearoa.
The way forward for the Mayor is actually quite simple, although it does require some courage. The statue of Hamilton is owned by the people of Hamilton and it is they who should decide whether it remains on public display. They also have a vested interest in the name of their city - for many it will be part of their cultural identity. Both those questions should be put to a binding referendum. On the latter, I have no doubt a landslide majority will want to stay with Hamilton as the name of their city. The future of the statue of someone who is said to have never set foot in the region is more tenuous.
Frank Newman, a writer and investment analyst, is a former local body councillor.