Candidates react to Te Pāti Māori’s decision

Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have received threats and hate speech from Tauranga residents. Photo: RNZ.

From upset to insulted is how other Tauranga by-election candidates feel about Te Pāti Māori’s decision not to stand a candidate for safety reasons.

Te Pāti Māori president Che Wilson announced the decision on Friday and labelled Tauranga a hotspot for white supremacy.

“A Department of Internal Affairs Report published in April this year confirmed that hate speech from white supremacists on social media is the largest form of hate speech in this country,” says Wilson.

“Tauranga is a hotspot.

"By standing in the by-election, we would be consciously sending our people into an unsafe environment and can only imagine how hard this is for our whanaunga and iwi of Tauranga Moana.

“The first hate-speech conviction and the belittling of te reo Māori at a public event took place in Tauranga,” he says.

“Tauranga residents have been subjected to white supremacist leaflet drops, and even our co-leaders have been the recipient of threats and hate speech by Tauranga residents."

The upcoming by-election is to replace retiring National MP Simon Bridges.

Labour candidate Jan Tinetti. Photo: Daniel Hines/SunLive.​​

Internal Affairs Minister and Labour candidate Jan Tinetti says she was upset the party didn’t think it was safe.

“I'm really sad for them that they feel that way, but it's a decision that each individual party does have to make,” she says.

“It is a charged political environment at the moment and, so each party needs to take that into account when they're looking at what they're going to do in this by-election.

ACT candidate Cameron Luxton says he was insulted to hear Tauranga labelled a hot spot for white supremacists an called for the party to apologise.

ACT candidate Cameron Luxton. Photo: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

“There is absolutely no evidence to back up this claim,” he says.

“It's just wrong to say something like that, about a group of people who go about their lives, treating each other with dignity.”

“And when that sort of slander is thrown against a whole town it’s not right,” says Luxton.

New Conservative co-leader and Tauranga candidate Helen Houghton agreed with Luxton.

New Conservative co-leader and Tauranga candidate Helen Houghton. Photo: Supplied.

“I think it is absurd to claim a whole city is racist because a few people have a view that might differ from others,” she says.

“Racism is an individual issue not a city's issue.

“Racism is thrown about too frequently by extremist views of a small number of people who do not often speak on behalf of those they claim are victims of racism.”

Peter Wakeman. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Independent candidate Peter Wakeman claims Te Pāti Maori aren’t standing because they “don’t want to face up to election scrutiny”.

“Te Pāti Maori’s decision not to stand in the by-election for safety reasons is very disappointing,” he says.

“I do acknowledge some small pockets of racism, but I believe the real factor stems from inequality.”

NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party’s Sue Grey says she hadn’t seen racism in she month she’d been living in Tauranga.

NZ Outdoors and Freedom Party’s Sue Grey. Photo: Supplied.

“I've been amazed at the diversity of the people that I've met at the meetings I've been to,” she says.

“I've seen a lot of people who are really concerned about the changes in New Zealand over the last couple of years.

“And I've seen a lot of concern about this, almost intentional divide and conquer sort of attitude of dobbing your neighbour in, but I haven't seen it on a racist ground.

“We are all in this Waka together. The more we listen, understand, respect and cooperate with each other, the more chance we have of enjoying the journey"

Tinetti’s agreed about Tauranga’s diversity and says it had grown in the 16 years she has lived there.

“One of the things that has upset me in recent times is the narrative around Tauranga has a lack of diversity,” she says.

“That's not the Tauranga that I know, we have a growing diversity within the city. We have a very strong mana whenua and other cultures coming in.”

When asked if Tauranga was a racist city, Tenetti says: “There’s a growing diversity and I think that Tauranga is richer for it”.

“But I think the Māori Party has a point,” she says.

“There are people who have put their head up above the parapet and we know that those people certainly have a racist element, but really that's not what I see on a day-to-day basis,” says Tinetti.

“I think it's very much becoming minority. Sometimes unfortunately, it's a loud minority.”

The white supremacist flyers Wilson referenced were pasted to the windows of Tinetti and fellow Labour MP Angie Warren-Clark’s office in April.

The leaflets were titled “it’s all right to be white” and had previously been distributed in the suburb of Matua.

Tinetti condemned the pamphlets but did not want to “glorify the behaviour”.
“I will call out racism, call it out every single time, because if you don't, you're complicit in it,” she says.

“I think that these people do things like this to get noticed and it, almost glorifies that for them.”

When asked about the leaflet drops Luxton says: “If I had the power to ask the question of parliament about what police are doing to investigate these issues, [I would] absolutely do that.”

 “But that doesn’t mean that you would string an entire group of people [together] based on the actions of a few,” he says.

“I grew up in this city and I’m raising my family here. It’s full of wonderful, hardworking and caring people.

“Like all cities, there are isolated incidents of racism. What we need is political leaders that reject racism and seek common ground.

“Instead, the Māori Party is trying to fight racism by stereotyping a whole group of people,” he says.

Te Pāti Māori president Che Wilson. Photo: RNZ.

Wilson says Te Pāti Māori was focused on a more just Tiriti-centric Aotearoa.

“We know Tauranga Moana is an amazing place; rich with history and there is hope, but sadly, this is politics, and the race card will mean that Māori will be used by some as a political football and we are unwilling to expose our people to that rubbish,” he says.

Candidates from the National Party, New Nation Party and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party have been approached for comment.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

You may also like....


Political Grand Standing

Posted on 14-05-2022 23:29 | By Yadick

This has never been a problem before but now all of a sudden thumb in mouth. If you don’t have a candidate worth standing just say so or if you know you don’t stand a chance just say so. Be honest, honesty is the best Policy. Overpowering white supremacy crap is just an unjustified excuse to take the soapbox and put thumb in mouth. So-called white supremacy in NZ is nothing but crap. Take those that think they’re white supremacists in NZ to the UK and they’ll have 8yr olds eating them for breakfast.


Posted on 14-05-2022 17:30 | By terry hall

put up a professional educated maori candidate like peters, or bridges, and not like whats in now useless and lookout tauranga bring back peters.

What a farce

Posted on 14-05-2022 15:45 | By an_alias

What a poor excuse for a group. Just political posturing and to get a headline.

choice of words

Posted on 14-05-2022 14:08 | By lynn

I was approached over a period of 2wks - 5 times in a shop that I work in by 2 persons in each group mainly women, to sign a petition against a maori ward in council. I am maori but look white. 9 of the people were from other countries mainly Africa. I felt then they were being racist/supremacist??. I feel Che that not standing is letting them win!!!!

Hate Speech or..........

Posted on 14-05-2022 09:05 | By Thats Nice

I would be interested in seeing for myself some of this "hate speech" and the white supremacist leaflets. I do not condone racism for one minute but I totally believe in freedom of speech which quite frequently folk can’t define the difference and then gets labelled hate speech if it doesn’t go along with their ideals.


Posted on 14-05-2022 07:54 | By Slim Shady

Just more Government produced propaganda to justify the removal of democracy.


Posted on 13-05-2022 23:36 | By Let's get real

There are some people out there who are disappointed with the theatrics and grandstanding that is being used by the representatives of the Maori party. I think that Maoridom deserves better from it’s leadership and I’m not in the least surprised to see that they’re gunshy when it comes to offering up a candidate who might not get the support from former supporters of the party. For 35 of the last 38 years, Tauranga residents have elected a Maori candidate into Parliament (Peters and Bridges) Put up a qualified and experienced professional and you’ll get the votes from the electorate

It's sad...

Posted on 13-05-2022 20:34 | By groutby

....that this or any party feel it necessary to react this way. TePati Maori knew that there is perhaps little support for a party such as theirs in this electorate...and that’s just fine..but to have to immediately put it into the ’white supremacist’ basket is just plain sad... If you really believe in the cause you are supporting, then get a keen candidate in there to support your beliefs!...the previous MP didn’t seem to have a problem eh? Just excuses, no more and no less......Waiariki is watching............


Posted on 13-05-2022 18:17 | By dumbkof2

they realise that they have no hope of winning so pull out. the other candidates should do the same and save their money


Posted on 13-05-2022 17:53 | By Potofstu

All this is a deflection tactic away from 3 waters and anyone willing to challenge it . If you want to feel unsafe try walking around downtown rotorua.

Leave a Comment

Sorry, Sun Media is no longer accepting comments on this article.