Residents in Tauranga are shocked to receive white supremacist leaflets in their letterboxes this week, and while police said it didn’t meet the threshold for a criminal offence, experts are calling for action.
The one-page flyers, headlined “It’s alright to be white”, were delivered anonymously, residents told Stuff.
Labelled “a community service message”, they tell recipients: "You have no need to feel guilty for the imagined sins of your forefathers," and recommends books with racist titles.
The books are written by an American white supremacist religious leader of a group, referenced in the leaflet, which has been classified as a hate group in the US.
Matua resident Friederike von Bultzingslowen says she was “shocked and incredulous” when she discovered the leaflet in her letterbox a few days ago.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s so horrible. You like to think that this sort of thing doesn’t happen. I showed it to my teenagers just to make them aware and go over the issues, and they too couldn’t imagine who would write or do this – it’s terrible.”
Von Bultzingslowen says she did not know who had distributed the flyer, but she says other residents in Matua had also received it, and she understands some have reported it to the police.
Another resident, who did not want to be named, says they have reported it to police.
Police confirmed that they are aware of the material circulating but are not treating this as a crime.
“While we understand it may be considered objectionable it doesn't appear to meet the threshold for a criminal offence,” says a police spokesperson.
However, experts who examined the leaflet are calling for more action.
Sociologist and Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley says it's important leaders in the community and the relevant government organisations condemn such “outdated and offensive views”.
“There ought to be an attempt to identify who has produced and distributed this pamphlet and some action taken against them. This action might not be prosecution, but there should be some sanctions in order to register our collective disapproval of such offensive views.”
Spoonley, who has extensively researched and written on social cohesion, racism, the far right, and white supremacism, says this type of action has previously been prosecuted, and the leaflet in Tauranga is of similar severity.
“The first time that radical right activists were prosecuted for distributing a racist pamphlet was in 1977. The pamphlet was anti-semitic and deemed an offence under the Race Relations Act. This pamphlet shows all the signs of being produced by white supremacists and, in my view, is deeply offensive. It has all the traditional references of the radical right such as ‘saving the white race’ and talking of “’bloody racial war’. I certainly think it is hate speech.”
Spoonley says white supremacy as promoted by radical right groups has grown since the Covid pandemic.
Professor Margaret Mutu, Te Wānanga o Waipapa – School of Māori Studies at the University of Auckland believes the leaflets should be viewed as a threat and investigated accordingly.
“This behaviour must be stopped. It is the responsibility of those charged with upholding the law to do that and for governments to ensure that they have the necessary tools to do so.”
Mutu agrees with Spoonley that white supremacy is an active threat and part of “the ugly underbelly of New Zealand society”.
“There are a small number of well-resourced and well-organised white supremacist individuals and groups who pose a serious threat and are well-known to security experts and government security services. They are being monitored but not as closely as or as seriously as they should be. They need to be reported to the appropriate authorities and those authorities need to take the necessary action to stop this behaviour.
“CTAG assessed it was probable there were individuals in New Zealand with an extreme right-wing ideology with the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack who have not come to the attention of security agencies."
Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says such acts are not taken seriously enough.
“To have this type of racist rhetoric sent to your home is inexcusable, and I feel for our Tauranga Moana whānau who have the right to feel safe.”
The party has called for a joint taskforce to investigate white supremacist hate speech.
“Tangata whenua have received threats for our marae to be burnt down, our Māori leadership to be killed and every time certain political parties debate indigenous rights this emboldens the racist culture to continue.”
Police encourage anyone receiving the material to contact 105.
Similar leaflets were delivered in Tauranga in 2019, Newshub reported at the time, with that incident also reported to police according to Newshub.