'Rather be out on the harbour' - National Party MP tweets from disability meetings

A National Party Minister is facing questions - and calls for her resignation - after tweeting she would rather be out on the harbour rather than meeting with disability groups.

Minister for Disabilities and MP for Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner, tweeted on Thursday she was "busy with disability meetings in Auckland - rather be out on the harbour!"

"Busy with disability meetings in Auckland 0 rather be out on the harbour!" tweeted Nicky Wagner.
"Busy with disability meetings in Auckland 0 rather be out on the harbour!" tweeted Nicky Wagner. Photo credit: Twitter/Nicky Wagner MP

"So would everyone with a disability but not everyone gets that choice," replied one tweeter.

"How dare you be so flippant," replied another. "I know one of those disabled people you were meeting with, and she had been looking forward to it for two weeks."

Angry response to Ms Wagner's tweet.
Angry response to Ms Wagner's tweet. Photo credit: Twitter/Nicky Wagner MP

When asked to elaborate on what she meant, Ms Wagner told Newshub, "I had a fantastic day in Auckland meeting with the Murray Halberg Trust, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service and EMA on disability issues. 

"It was a gorgeous day and we all would have rather had the meetings out on the harbour."

She later tweeted an apology, saying she did not mean to cause offense.

"I apologise for any offence I have caused to the disability community. That was not my intention", she said.

But she's facing sharp criticism from the disability community and opposition parties.

Although the Labour Party's spokesperson for disability issues Poto Williams did not have any comment for Newshub, Labour's finance spokesperson Grant Robertson used twitter to call for Ms Wagner's resignation.

"Oh. My. God. You are the Minister for Disabilities, show some respect. Actually, come to think of it, just resign and go be on the harbour," Mr Roberston tweeted.

The Green Party's spokesperson for disability Issues Mojo Mathers says the tweet is appallingly shallow.

"It really makes me question her committment to the disability community if she'd rather be out on the harbour than in meetings with them," Ms Mathers said to Newshub.

Gary Farrow, a journalist and disability advocate who lives with a severe brain injury, says he is concerned about Ms Wagner's progress with the portfolio if she is complaining about attending meetings.

"If our own Disability Issues Minister is subliminally complaining about attending meetings in Auckland, relating to exactly that portfolio, by openly commenting that she'd rather be somewhere on the harbour - which is inaccessible to many people with disabilities - then I fear for the amount of progress she's actually aiming to achieve for the disabled community at these meetings."

Wagner hard-working, competent - Bill English

Prime Minister Bill English defended his minister at the Waterview Tunnel opening on Sunday.

"Nicky Wagner is a strong advocate for the disability community. She has many friends there. No-one would believe that Nicky Wagner set out to be offensive to people with disabilities.

"She's a very hardworking, competent minister who made a mistake with her tweet, easily misunderstood, and she's fixed that, which is appropriate."

Mr English said there was no way Ms Wagner meant to offend.