Murdering Snow and Ruling the North: The Rise and Fall of Affective Colonialism in New Zealand
Harman, K, Murdering Snow and Ruling the North: The Rise and Fall of Affective Colonialism in New Zealand, Historicising Heritage and Emotions: The Affective Histories of Blood, Stone and Land from Medieval Britain to Colonial Australia, Routledge, A Marchant (ed), Abingdon, pp. 183-197. ISBN 9781138202825 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]
Located on Auckland’s north shore, Devonport is strongly associated with the sea, not least because of its significant heritage as the site of New Zealand’s first naval presence. As New Zealand experienced a turn towards tourism in the 1980s, the Devonport Borough Council resolved at a meeting on 29 May 1985 to install on concrete plinths along the foreshore ‘suitably inscribed plaques … to mark six of Devonport’s historic sites.’ The majority interpret the suburb’s close association with boat-building, shipyards and the navy, including ‘the first Devonport wharf, also known as Duder’s wharf’ and ‘Torpedo Bay named after the torpedo boats which berthed at the naval wharf from 1886.’ These sites perpetuate a celebratory narrative of Pākehā (as the white newcomers came to be known) conquest, consolidation and colonial expansion. Seemingly out of step with this maritime theme is another bronze plaque. Taken at face value, its point of divergence seems to be that it marks the site of the murder of a colonial family and their murderer’s subsequent execution. However, the murdered father and the murderer were both one-time Royal Navy men. This connection with the sea, so integral to their stories, was not mentioned on the plaque inscribed in 1986 by Worrall Jewellers. The text, imbued with the authority of the council’s seal, reads: ‘Execution Site. This is the site of the murder of Lt. Snow and his family in 1848 and the subsequent public execution of the murderer, Joseph Burns.’ The plaque, incorrectly ascribing the year of the execution, 1848, to the year of the murders (which took place in 1847), was installed on a wide grassy verge with a pavement on one side and the water on the other, ‘more or less opposite 7 King Edward Parade,’ where it continues to stand.