Warning: This article contains racist language.
The owner of a Canterbury brewery has denied he's racist despite labelling Māori the "scourge of New Zealand" and appearing to call for their mass imprisonment.
David Gaughan, the founder of Eagle Brewing in Kaiapoi, was heavily criticised after a comment of his on a news website's Facebook page was spotted by social media users.
Since the backlash, Gaughan has announced he is stepping away from Facebook and will take time to reconsider his positions as owner, director and executive brewer at Eagle.
The comment, which has now been deleted, was posted on a 1 News story about a firearms incident near a Napier primary school.
In a screenshot of the comment posted to social media, Gaughan can be seen describing Māori as the "scourge of New Zealand" and arguing that "the quicker we put them in prison the better".
"I'm talking about the majority of the male population," the comment continues.
"The ones who beat their missis. Who don't give a f**k about society. Yeah you who will Rebel against these words. But truth be told you are NZ biggest problem right now (sic)."
After the comment was shared widely on social media, Eagle Brewing posted an explanation - but denied it was discriminatory, saying its true meaning had been "misconstrued as racism".
"Firstly Eagle Brewing totally denounces any form of racism and promotes a multicultural environment within its team of employees," a statement posted to its Facebook page reads.
"Unfortunately the comment was poorly worded and was actually trying to highlight the unacceptable issue of violence against women. The author and the business are deeply sorry for any hurt arising from the comment."
Gaughan later posted a statement of his own, apologising for "the way in which this post has been perceived" and revealing he was considering stepping back from the company.
"I denounce all forms of racism and I am in no way biased to any one culture," he wrote, adding that violence against women was "statistically higher in some cultures".
"Shortly I will be taking a break from Facebook, not sure how long for and I am considering my position within the business. My health is currently not the best and I need some time to reflect on how the pressure of the last few years has impacted me.
"My wife, staff and good friends have all been outstanding in their support of me. Thank you. The business and it's (sic) stakeholders need to be confident that it will continue to flourish and it will. Love and kindness makes the world a better place for us all."
Eagle Brewing's Port and Eagle Brewpub in Kaiapoi has been besieged by angry reviewers since the post came to light, with more than 30 negative reviews in recent hours seeing its Google rating plummet to 2.3 stars out of five.
A number of stockists and sponsors have also pulled out of contracts with the company.
In a statement issued to Newshub via PR agency Delaney late on Friday afternoon, Gaughan said he'd be working with "my Māori friends" and domestic violence advocacy group She's Not Your Rehab on a "new journey of understanding".
"On Wednesday evening I made a comment on social media that was completely unacceptable. I want to apologise unreservedly for making the comment, and for the large amount of hurt and anger it has caused, and rightly so," the statement reads.
"The comment was made as a result of deep seated issues I have within myself about growing up with family violence and seeing it affect people I love. This in no way justifies what I said.
"I have come to understand that I need to look inside at the changes I can make to unlearn and relearn, so I can gain a better cultural understanding in the place that I feel privileged to call my home.
"I sincerely thank those who have reached out including organisations such as She Is Not My Rehab (sic) who I will be working with on this new journey of understanding, as well as my Maori friends who have encouraged open dialogue with aroha to create a deeper understanding."
"Again, I am deeply sorry and I will do everything in my power to learn, grow and make this right."