Lions club deletes Facebook page after using blackface in parade

The Hawera Mt Biew Lions Club's float at the Christmas parade on Friday.
The Hawera Mt Biew Lions Club's float at the A&P parade on Friday. Photo credit: Debbie Ngarewa-Packer/Facebook

A Lions club in Hawera defended its use of blackface in a parade, saying critics shouldn't be "too precious or PC", then deleted its Facebook page.

The Hawera Mt View Lions Club's float at the Taranaki town's A&P parade on Friday evening featured half-a-dozen people with their faces painted black, surrounded by black and white balloons.

Former New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd called it "absolutely disgusting", and ex-MP and Maori activist Hone Harawira said he wanted to "smash the racist motherf**kers".

"Tonight's Hawera parade showed BLACKFACED RACISTS are well and truly alive!" said Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who uploaded photos of the Lions' float to Facebook.

"This is what we contend with every day in this region the normalisation of racists and bigots in community institutions. Unchallenged and unvetted," she wrote on Mr Judd's post condemning the display. "Let's all call them out."

Mr Harawira went a step further.

"You know what folks? Sometimes you just got to put all your academic angst in your back pocket and just smash the racist mother**kers!" he wrote on Facebook.

"F**kwits like this just laugh at your complaints, but they bleed like everybody else."

In a since-deleted Facebook post containing a number of spelling errors, the Hawera Mt View Lions said it was "by no means meant to be derogatory as a racist commentary, rather a celebration of all cultures".

Facebook/Hawera Mt View Lions
Photo credit: Facebook/Hawera Mt View Lions

"What if these persons had been dressed up representing Maori wabine and warriors. Would that have been offensive too?

"This group of ladies work very hard for You the community and support all the diverse cultures within it. Let's not be too precious or PC. Next parade let's see you participate and join in the celebration that is the Agricultural and Pastural heritage of our district [sic]."

Twenty minutes later the club apologised.

"Hawera Mt View Lions do sincerely apologise for the impression we made at the Parade last night. We didn't set out to upset the community in the way it has."

After this second post, the club took its Facebook page offline altogether.

Mr Judd has called himself a "recovering racist", and has been criticised for his support of Māori representation in local government.

Apology from the Lions

In a statement supplied to Newshub later on Saturday morning, the club said it "got this wrong".

"We sincerely apologise for our choice of float," said president Steph Jordan. 

"It was never our intention to offend anyone. We got this wrong. We were naive. We are really disappointed in ourselves. We are a voluntary organisation that is involved in many projects that help people make our community better. 

"We have learnt a big lesson from this and will be more aware of these sorts of things going forward."