NZ Herald criticised for 'inexcusable' cartoon in wake of ODT backlash

The cartoon has since been removed from the NZ Herald's website.
The cartoon has since been removed from the NZ Herald's website. Photo credit: NZ Herald

A cartoon published by the NZ Herald has been criticised for comparing the regeneration of native forest to the Holocaust - just days after the Otago Daily Times was berated for its "insensitive" comic making light of Samoa's measles crisis.

The NZ Herald's comic, drawn by veteran cartoonist Peter Bromhead, depicts a Nazi officer with a chainsaw surrounded by tree stumps. 

It reads: "I vos just obeying orders", the chainsaw marked with "officialdom" and a signpost reading "Mt Albert".

The cartoon accompanied an online column from Wednesday, "an unfortunate scalping of the maunga", written by Brian Rudman. The comic has since been deleted, although it continues to be circulated on social media.

"Owairaka/Mt Albert has been so badly disfigured by a century of mining that it surely needs all the cosmetic make-up going. To insist on ripping up 345 mature exotics before replacing them with around 10,000 baby native shrubs and trees at least needed further explanation to concerned locals," Rudman wrote.

"That 345 mature foreigners have to die before this can go ahead seems, shall we say, counter-productive on all sorts of levels. And so unnecessary."

CEO of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, Chris Harris, has called the comic "inexcusable". 

"Comparing the proposed removal of approximately 350 trees for Owairaka/Mt Albert to the extermination of six million Jews and millions of Sinti, Roma, disabled and other groups deemed less desirable by the Nazi regime... the fact this was ever published is inexcusable," Harris said in a statement on Thursday.

"This is unacceptable. Genocides such as the Holocaust do not begin with actions, they begin with words and, importantly, visual propaganda such as cartoons.

"The fact that such cartoons are still being published in 2019 is concerning."

One Twitter user shared a scathing tweet in response to Bromhead's cartoon, acknowledging the awkward timing. 

"ODT hold my beer. In a classy move the NZ Herald compares regenerating native forest to Nazi genocide, and throws in a side helping of drive-by racism on the Maunga Authority," he wrote on Wednesday morning.

"So they are saying cutting down 350 trees is like the Holocaust? Amazing they printed that," one woman tweeted.

In a statement, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority Paul Majurey said the NZ Herald "comparing exotic tree removal with the Holocaust was wrong and a serious error of judgement".

"A small minority of people have chosen to make the native vegetation restoration at Ōwairaka/Mt Albert a race issue and it is disappointing to see the Herald buying into that," he told Newshub.

The newspaper updated the article and included an apology at the bottom of the piece in response to the backlash.

"The New Zealand Herald apologises for upset caused by [the] publication of the Bromhead cartoon that accompanied this column on Wednesday," the paper wrote.

"No harm was meant or intended. We regret causing offence and the cartoon has been removed."

Earlier this week, the Otago Daily Times published Garrick Tremain's cartoon depicting two women exiting a travel agency alongside the caption: "I asked what are the least popular spots at the moment? She said the ones people are picking up in Samoa." 

Tremain and the newspaper have since apologised for the controversial image and the cartoonist is under review.

NZME declined to comment.