Māori Santa accepts invitation to Wellington

Rob Herewini, Nelson's Māori Santa - Photo / Braden Fastier, Stuff

Nelson's Māori Santa is set to make an appearance in Wellington after fundraising efforts and Facebook calls from two Aro Valley locals garnered the support of thousands.

Rob Herewini says he's overwhelmed by the support from Wellington locals to appear at Aro Valley's Summer Sounds music event.

"I couldn't believe it actually.  I suppose I was surprised at the support with me being Hana Koko here in Nelson, really surprised that people elsewhere around the country were willing to support me in that kaupapa."

Event organisers Natasha Crombie and Lexi Taylor say they were shocked at the online backlash from Herewini's appearance at Nelson's Christmas parade earlier this month, where he wore a red korowai and Maui hook.

One online commentor said: "Santa IS NOT, HAS NEVER BEEN, AND WILL NEVER BE A BLOODY MAORI !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Taylor says, "We created that page to really show love for Rob and open that conversation with New Zealand that actually, this is cool and that the comments that came out from that parade were not a good representation of what Kiwis think."

Herewini says, "I think it's good that it's shown people around the whenua the underlying current of racism, especially here in Nelson, but I'm sure it's not only here in Nelson- it's all through the whenua."

Over 4,000 people are expected to attend the event including Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

An invitation has also been extended to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and baby Neve, who the women hope will take her first Christmas pic with Māori Santa.

Crombie says, "It would be awesome to know that our prime minister supports Hana Koko."

A Givealittle page to fund Herewini's flights to the capital has received over $2,000. 

The event kicks off at Aro Park on Dec 22.

NB: Video Credit / Marae, Pango Productions