Te Pāti Māori leader rubbishes Act candidate's call for Tauranga apology

updated By Whatitiri Te Wake

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi has slammed Act candidate Cameron Luxton’s call for an apology following the party's decision not to field a candidate in the upcoming Tauranga by-election because of white supremacists attacking its leaders. 

In a statement, Luxton said Te Pāti Māori was "caught in a lie, trying to bad-mouth Tauranga by spreading misinformation and they owe our city and (sic) apology".

“There is absolutely no evidence to back up this claim. I grew up in this city and I’m raising my family here. It’s full of wonderful, hard-working and caring people.”

The ACT candidate says an earlier version of Māori Party Che Wilson's announcement that the party was not fielding a candidate because of racism referred to a Department of Internal Affairs report, which allegedly fingered Tauranga as a hotspot of racism for white supremacists. However, the party president later withdrew that allegation.

Luxton says the Maori Party should therefore apologise to Tauranga.

However, Waititi questions Luxton’s qualification to speak on people’s experiences of racism and said, "he's full of it".

“Kaore te Pākeha e kai ana i te Pākeha. Ko tōna kai, he Māori. Wāna nei hoki.”

“Pākeha aren't attacking Pākeha, they're attacking Māori - the cheek of it,” he said.

Back in April, leaflets were delivered to Tauranga residents bearing messages such as 'Save the White Race'. Rāwiri Waititi says that is the tip of the iceberg

“Te tahuna i te tahi rau rima tekau marae. Me te whakamate, kōhuru i te nui o ngā rangatira Māori i roto i o rātou kāinga, nō roto o Tauranga hoki, Pāpāmoa”

“A threat to burn down 150 marae and kill off Māori leaders in their homes - that person was from Tauranga, Pāpāmoa,” he said.

Ripped off

Co-leader Debbie Ngārewa Packer said threats of violence and racism occurred daily and they had adjusted their security strategies to keep themselves safe. She is disappointed the party is not fielding a candidate bu,t for safety, she supports the move.

“We feel ripped off in the fact that we should not be having to make a principled stand like this. We should have been able to guarantee safety for a candidate. We should have been able to guarantee that to their whānau,” she said.

Party president Che Wilson said safety was the determining factor.

“It was a great opportunity to stand in the by-election because it would have encouraged a different conversation but, after some consideration, we've decided no, it is not safe.