Government adviser fired over offensive comments about Māori

Nelson Cross (Newshub.)
Nelson Cross (Newshub.)

An Otago man has been fired from his position as a Government adviser on recreational fishing for writing an offensive story that describes Māori enjoying "KFC, the TAB and sedentary living".

Nelson Cross says he's not racist and meant no harm - however, the Government wasted no time in removing him.

Mr Cross is a lifetime fisherman and he says his article on the history of fishing in New Zealand was a tongue in cheek fairytale.

"It was meant to be humorous, most people found it humorous, obviously someone didn't," he says.

Mr Cross wrote the article six years ago, but repeated it in a newsletter he sent out last month.

That was shared widely in fishing circles and on Monday he was removed from a Crown-appointed marine protection forum.

Mr Cross's story begins by claiming Māori exterminated and ate the original inhabitants of New Zealand.

Then it says Māori discovered KFC and the TAB and the joys of sedentary living while on a benefit and could see all the dollars the commercial "fullas" were making.

"Here" they said. "That there is our fish. We were here first.

"Give us our share so we can lease it out to foreigners and not have to go to work and still get the benefit. Youse white buggers owe it to us cos it sez so in te tiriti [the treaty] [sic]."

Mr Cross denies being racist, however Mr Cross's critics say his 'fairy-tale' is highly offensive.

"It's completely inappropriate to be making those sorts of comments," says Labour's fisheries spokesman Rino Tirikatene.

"The best way forward is to treat each other with respect."

Mr Cross also refers to the white man as "drunkards, womanisers, layabouts, escaped convicts and ratbags of the first order".

"I think it's not particularly PC, whether it's appropriate or not is probably in the eyes of the reader. [I've received] many calls from around the country saying 'good on ya mate' - I believe my integrity's still intact," he says.

A letter to Mr Cross signed by Ministers Nathan Guy and Nicky Wagner calls his newsletter inappropriate and offensive.

They say it risks compromising the forum's ability to engage effectively with tangata whenua and the public, and it's unacceptable for a Government-endorsed member of the South East Marine Protection Forum to be circulating this material.

Therefore, the Government has removed him from the forum, where he represented recreational fishers.

Mr Cross says he's been a good advocate and thinks he was sacked because of his strong opposition to marine reserves.

But the Ministers involved wouldn't comment today and referred Newshub to his dismissal letter.