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Te Papa leaders seeking Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Justin Wong, Culture minister wants defaced Te Papa Treaty exhibit repaired or removed, The Post, 28 March 2024

Arts and culture minister Paul Goldsmith told Te Papa’s board he thought the damaged panel bearing Te Tiriti’s English version should be repaired or removed as soon as possible. ROBERT KITCHIN / THE POST

Arts and culture minister Paul Goldsmith has told Te Papa’s board the damaged English version of the Treaty of Waitangi display at the national museum should be repaired or removed from public view as soon as possible.

Goldsmith wrote in a letter to Te Papa’s board chairperson Dame Fran Wilde in February, saying he considered the damage to the panel “denigrates our nation’s founding documents and national identity”.

“I would like to express my strong view that the damaged panel should be removed or repaired as soon as possible,” he said.

Activist group Te Waka Hourua defaced the wooden panel bearing the English version of Te Tiriti at the Signs of a Nation exhibition using an angle grinder and black spray paint last December, demanding Te Papa to remove it.

Twelve protesters were arrested and four were charged. The activists said in the aftermath the English version of the Te Tiriti was not a translation of the te reo Māori version and held no legal standing.

Protesters from activist group Te Waka Hourua defaced the display in December. TE WAKA HORUA / SUPPLIED.

The opposite panel with the te reo Māori version of Te Tiriti was left untouched, and there are information panels in the exhibition explaining the differences between the English and te reo versions.

Goldsmith said on Thursday he did not believe there was any value to the public in seeing the vandalism.

“Some may call it art, I call it vandalism.”

Wilde said she didn’t believe Te Papa was being directed by Goldsmith to do anything.

The museum said last year the defaced exhibit would remain on display over the summer break, but it would be eventually removed and stored, while Te Papa would renew the Signs of a Nation exhibition. A decision was yet to be made whether the damaged exhibit would become part of the museum’s collection.

Te Papa has said the defaced exhibit would be removed and the exhibition about Te Tiriti o Waitangi would be renewed. SUPPLIED / THE POST.

“There are also practical considerations in removing this large panel which will require specialised equipment,” said the museum’s chief executive Courtney Johnston and Māori co-leader Dr Arapata Hakiwai.

They also said having conversations of what the new Tiriti exhibition should look like would take time.

“Open, honest conversations are important to us, and we can see it is provoking rich, thoughtful kōrero among our visitors,” they said. “As we re-imagine this exhibition, we are committed to a process that involves communities and creates a space for authentic, honest and informed conversations about Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

Johnston and Hakiwai also said then the museum had listened to the message of the protest action and the responses to it.


See also: Culture Minister Goldsmith asks national museum to take down vandalised English version of Treaty