Groundswell NZ distances itself from supporter's 'racial and abusive' viral email about He Puapua report, Māori favouritism

Content warning: This article mentions rape and contains language that may offend some readers.

Groundswell NZ has distanced itself from a supporter's widely circulated email about perceived favouritism of Māori by the Government, calling it "racial and abusive".

The email, sent by Groundswell supporter John May, called Māori "a primitive people" and urged attendees of November's farmer protest to demonstrate against the controversial He Puapua report.

"As you will be aware, many of us are extremely concerned with this Government and the direction this country is going in," May wrote, labelling the Labour caucus "manipulative" and "rotten from the inside out".

He went on to complain about He Puapua, a Government report commissioned in 2019 that sets out a roadmap to co-governance between the Crown and Māori by 2040.

May alleges He Puapua will lead to us "rewriting" New Zealand history, "programming children with woke BS" and "twisting words, meanings and intent" of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"For Christ's sake it's a poorly written 1 Page document with a bunch of X's inserted by a primitive people sick of being shot with muskets, then enslaved, raped and eaten by each other!" he wrote of the treaty.

Later in the email, May made further questionable or false claims about the He Puapua report and said New Zealand risked becoming like Zimbabwe, South Africa or Venezuela.

He then urged people to attend the Groundswell protest on November 21 - a demonstration over the Government's farming regulations - saying it was an opportunity to be heard on the wider issues he'd raised.

"This peaceful protest will be huge and it will be heard. It isn't only for farmers, or about farming, this is an opportunity for the Silent Majority to finally have a voice… We have no other platform, this is where the line will be drawn in the sand."

John May's email.
John May's email. Photo credit: Supplied

The email was forwarded on to Newshub by a concerned recipient, who described it as "extremely racist" and "totally unacceptable in modern New Zealand".

The head of Groundswell concurs, and has since condemned the email.

"I've said all along we don't condone anything racial or abusive, and that definitely comes under the racial and abusive section, doesn't it?" Bryce McKenzie told Newshub.

May disagrees, however, saying it isn't racist and "if anything, it's quite the reverse".

"Half the people I would have sent [the email] to are partially Māori people. So there is absolutely nothing racist about it. In fact, we're railing against racism."

May estimates he sent the email to roughly six friends, who then forwarded it on to others.

It's not clear how many people have read the email, but May says he's been getting calls from "lots of people" from "up and down the country" who agree with what he wrote.

McKenzie told Newshub Groundswell didn't have a formal position on He Puapua, and there was no crossover between protests over the report and farmer's rights.

He hopes rival messages don't distract from Groundswell's next protest, scheduled for November, like they did earlier this year. During the July protest, some attendees displayed signs with offensive messages, many of which had racial overtones.

McKenzie says he found this "really disappointing", but he's not sure how to prevent supporters from expressing opinions that don't align with Groundswell's core message.

"I mean, we'd love to be able to stop that, but I don't know how you do stop it," McKenzie said.

"This next protest, we've got a list of approved signs to try and steer clear of anything like that, and I hope people will adhere to that. But as you know, people will be people - and unfortunately, you attract all sorts, and all sorts do different things."

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