Morning Briefing June 11: Debate over controversial statues reaches NZ

The anti-racism protests sparked by the death of American man George Floyd have seen activists targeting statues linked to colonialism or the slave trade – and the debate over what to do with these troublesome monuments has now reached New Zealand.

A worker rests after the statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was taken down at West India Quay, east London. Source: Associated Press

The issue gained worldwide attention when protesters in the UK tore down a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol a few days ago.

Since then, thousands more have demanded the removal of an imperialist statue outside Oriel College in Oxford, while a statue of Christopher Columbus has been torn down in the US state of Virginia overnight.

The BBC has detailed other monuments targeted in protests over Mr Floyd’s death, including one of Winston Churchill in London.

Now Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer wants New Zealand’s Government to establish an inquiry focused on getting rid of racist statues and names from our own colonial era.

Historians are also urging Kiwis to reflect on these monuments. As the Herald reports, statues depicting colonial history are found right around the country with little balance with Māori history. New Zealand also has several streets and places named after slave traders who have never been here. 

Opinion is divided overseas about taking down such monuments, with some arguing that by removing history, we may also forget consequences of actions. 

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Eruption survivors seek damages

An American couple who survived the White Island/Whakaari eruption last year have told 1 NEWS they plan to seek damages from both the Royal Caribbean cruise line that sold them the island excursion and operators White Island Tours.

Matt and Lauren Urey were in New Zealand hospitals with serious burns for two months following the eruption.

Mr Urey says they feel genuinely wronged and weren’t given enough information to make an informed decision about the trip to the volcano that fateful day. The couple’s lawyer says he’s filing their lawsuit within the next two weeks. 

The Ureys also told 1 NEWS last night about their long, painful recovery and the toll the eruption has taken on their marriage.

The couple were on their honeymoon when Whakaari erupted and say the first year of their marriage “has pretty much been robbed from us”.  

Hospitals on life support?

Billions of dollars will be needed over the next decade to fix New Zealand’s substandard hospital facilities after a national stocktake found many of them are not up to scratch.

Operating theatres, emergency departments and mental health units have been declared not fit for purpose, with RNZ reporting a main tower block at Nelson Hospital and the special care baby unit at Waitākere Hospital are in the worst condition. You can find the full stocktake report here.

Meanwhile, St John Ambulance is warning staff of job cuts as it deals with a $30 million deficit.

1 NEWS understands the charity applied for the wage subsidy but was turned down, partly because it’s nearly three-quarters funded by the Government.

In a leaked email, CEO Peter Bradley says the cost-cutting situation is “unavoidable”, although he’s hopeful of further Government assistance. 

The reality of Covid recovery

New Zealand may not have any active cases of Covid-19 right now, but Kiwis who were infected with the virus say they’re still battling debilitating symptoms long after being marked as officially recovered.

1 NEWS digital reporter Natalia Sutherland has spoken to several young Kiwis who are still struggling with severe fatigue, headaches and muscle aches months after their initial Covid diagnosis.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there’s no evidence yet of ongoing symptoms for New Zealand’s victims of the virus, however the young, normally fit Kiwis 1 NEWS spoke to say the lingering effects of Covid-19 are a reality for them.

Travel woes rumble on

While New Zealand inches ever closer to a trans-Tasman travel bubble, one of our Pacific neighbours say they should be prioritised with their own travel bubble.

The Cook Islands’ business leaders are pleading with New Zealand to lift border restrictions, saying they would rather have tourism dollars than aid money.

The Cook Islands have recorded no cases of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the Air New Zealand refund saga continues.

Consumer NZ has called for urgent reform after thousands of Kiwis have struggled to get cash refunds for cancelled flights, however Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says any law change wouldn’t be retrospective, meaning no help for those already affected by Covid-19 cancellations.

Power to the people?

The electricity regulator has released a pricing plan to make sure the cost of lines charges is evenly spread across the country.

The change is good news for the power bills of some, particularly in the South Island, but there will be price rises for some consumers in the North Island. You can find the Electricity Authority’s full report here.

And if you’re looking to save money on your own power bill, Seven Sharp clip has detailed a few tips for doing just that.

Other news of note this morning:

Police are investigating after a Māori woman said she was racially abused and assaulted while out for a walk on an Auckland volcano earlier this week.

Stuff reports the family of Steven Wallace, who was shot dead by police in Waitara 20 years ago, are heading back to court next month.

German prosecutors say there’s substantial evidence missing British toddler Madeleine McCann is dead but it’s not strong enough to charge the prime suspect.

This year’s massive kiwifruit crop has meant record revenue for the industry, despite the worker shortage brought on by Covid-19.

Police are wanting to contact a man accused of approaching children in Christchurch yesterday afternoon with a suspicious request.

And certain varieties of a much sought after pot plant are fetching upwards of $1000 on Trade Me.

And finally...

Thingee's eye pops out during filming of The Son of a Gunn show Source: 1 NEWS

Is there a more iconic moment from New Zealand’s first 60 years of television than the one above?


But the memory of Thingee’s eye popping out while filming The Son of a Gunn show remains strong, even after 26 years.

Seven Sharp spoke to Thingee’s mate, Jason Gunn, last night in honour of NZ On Screen’s search for the country’s favourite TV moment.

You can check out their stroll down memory lane – including a stop at Jason’s Tinny House – here.