‘I give nothing to racism' - Mahuta hits back over Tatua director's social posts

By Will Trafford

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta received an apology from Tatua chairman Stephen Allen for his director's remarks

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has hit back at racist social media posts about her moko kauae from a dairy company director as "not a true reflection of who New Zealanders are".

The since-deleted Facebook posts from Ross Townshend, a Tatua Dairy Company director and Groundswell organiser, attacked Mahuta, who is representing Aotearoa in her first international tour, using highly inflammatory, racist slurs.

In an interview with Te Ao Māori News on the sidelines of the tour, Mahuta rebuffed Townshend, saying the fact Townshend stepped down from his 12-year directorship after his posts were shown to the company's chairman shows Kiwis don’t tolerate his views.

‘New Zealanders are a fair-thinking people, a fair-minded people. I think New Zealanders have expressed where their tolerance levels are, in terms of no to discrimination, no to racism, no to things that fundamentally will divide,’ she said.

Te Ao Māori News will not share the language used on taste and decency grounds. However social media commenters condemned them as "racist", "misogynist" and "disgusting".

Mahuta acknowledged she’d received a formal apology from Tatua's chairman but said given her itinerary of visiting six countries in almost as many days, she hadn’t given time to the outburst.

‘I give nothing to racism. I'm not going to waste my breath on it,’ she said.

In a public statement Tatua chairman Stephen Allen condemned the posts as "highly inappropriate" and "incompatible" with the company's culture and values.

No Māori veto

"Mr Townshend's personal views and the way he chose to express them are incompatible with Tatua's culture and values. Therefore, his actions left me with no other course of action than to accept his resignation on behalf of the Tatua board of directors," he said.

Much of Townshend’s attack centred on the government’s Three Waters reforms spearhead by Mahuta in her local government minister role.

Asked if some of the attacks on the Three Waters reforms were motivated by a racist agenda concerning Māori co-governance she stopped short of saying criticisms were out and out racist but acknowledged misinformation swirling around the issue.

‘This criticism has been that Māori will have a right of veto on these new governance structures. That is not the case and it has never been a part of the policy objectives or articulated in any of our policy development processes,’ she said.

Mahuta’s visit to the Middle East put paid to Townshend’s commentary. One Emirati official Mahuta met, Sheikh Majid Al Qassimi said far from alienating Aotearoa, the cultural similarities of Māori and Emirati put them in prime position for strengthened trade ties.

‘We do business, with people we know, with people we trust," he said. 'We don’t do transactional business. Māori and Emirati have so much in common. I’m excited by the business relationships that we establish. They will be multigenerational’. 

According to NZTE the economic benefit of Mahuta’s visit and Aotearoa’s participation in the Dubai Expo 2020 World Fair will exceed $300 million, with deals for everything from Halal meats to dairy products signed since the expo began in October.