Race Relations Commissioner slams 'horribly racist' messages left for uni professor

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says no one should be subject to racist or abusive messages.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says no one should be subject to racist or abusive messages. Photo credit: File

The Race Relations Commissioner says he is concerned at the amount of racist rhetoric he has seen after a Pasifika academic was subject to a racist tirade via voicemail.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, co-head of Te Wānanga o Waipapa - the School of Māori Studies and Pacific Studies - at the University of Auckland shared seven minutes of a voicemail she received after speaking about her career to RNZ.

In the interview, Tiatia-Seath mentioned the fact female Pasifika academics earn approximately $7000 less than their male counterparts - something which clearly upset the caller.

"I don't know how much you get paid as a professor there, what $100,000 a year?" they asked in the voicemail.

"Why quibble over $7000? It's meaningless. You get paid so much compared to what you would have been paid in Samoa."

The lengthy voicemail also said colonists and settlers "taught  Māori chiefs to stop invading each other's tribes" and asked if Tiatia-Seath was trying to "push her culture" before claiming Polynesians only arrived in New Zealand about 60 years ago.

"The way you talked last night - you behaved as if you owned New Zealand. You don't. You're all a late arrival."

Tiatia-Seath said the messages were "horribly racist". 

Race Relations commissioner Meng Foon told Newshub no one should be subjected to racist or abusive messages.

"I have noticed of late a number of cases of harmful and often racist rhetoric expressed publicly and on social media which concern me as it shows there is still work to be done to create a fully inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand," he said.

"People should feel included, safe and respected, regardless of their race or ethnicity. We all have a responsibility to foster harmonious and inclusive communities that give dignity and respect for all and therefore we need to ensure our workplaces, public spaces, and communities are safe and free from discrimination."