Politics | Treaty

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

In December 2023, members of Wakahourua edited the section of the Signs of a Nation display containing the English text of the Treaty of Waitangi using paint and angle grinders.

Arts, Culture, and Heritage Minister Paul Goldsmith has asked Te Papa Tongarewa to take down the Treaty of Waitangi display that was vandalised by activists.

In December, members of the protest group Wakahourua “edited” the section of the Signs of a Nation display containing the English text of the Treaty, using paint and angle grinders.

Goldsmith asked the museum’s board to remove the edited display swiftly as he thought the vandalism showing on the English language Treaty wasn’t helpful.

“It’s not as swift as I would like certainly. But I think it’s an important part of the Te Papa legislation because it’s a place where all New Zealanders feel proud and so I think it does need to come down as soon as possible.”

University of Auckland associate history professor Aroha Harris says she is in two minds about Goldsmith’s request.

“I mean it depends on what he’s calling the actual display because one of the questions that Te Papa might think about is: ‘If we take this down, what could we put up?’

“Now if you put up all of the Tiriti documents, well at least all of the ones that we know we signed, you’re going to have eight, I think, that are in te reo Māori and one in English.”

In a statement, Te Papa Tongarewa said it received a letter from Goldsmith to the Te Papa chair in late February.

Goldsmith said today that while he could make a request for the display’s removal, he lacked the authority to enforce it, and the board’s response would not impact Te Papa’s funding.

“What they do with the artifact is up to the museum but, in terms of that display, I don’t think it should be up there any longer than it needs to be,” he said.

Te Papa confirmed it was in the process of removing it, with logistics being worked out but there was no set date.

Harris, however, said it was something they should take their time to think about because the edited version had brought more eyes to the museum and opened up discussion around the differences between Te Tiriti and the Treaty of Waitangi.

“It was an educational piece before the protest action was taken and I think that the protest action has added to the kōrero about that particular display.

“People seem to be interested and one question I might have now is, ‘is it art now?’”