'I'm not racist': Hone Harawira defends comments on police at Ihumātao as Simon Bridges labels them 'disgusting'

Hone Harawira is defending comments he made about police at Ihumātao, which Simon Bridges has labelled "racist" and "disgusting". 

Harawira justified his comments made last week, in which he said "get those white f**kers off that front line", telling Magic Talk he felt there was a need for more of a Māori presence. 

The former Maori Party MP said he reached out to deputy police commissioner Wally Hauhama, asking him to replace the police officers at Ihumātao with Māori liaison officers. 

He said the Māori liaison officers "don't run around in police uniform". He said they "have their own relaxed style of dress" and are identifiable by the badge they wear.

"Some years ago now, Wally Haumaha had frontline police drawn from Waitangi and replaced by Maori liaison officers, and things have been relatively peaceful ever since," Harawira said. 

"You have an environment where they are engaging on a daily basis, they're talking with the people there, the people there are a lot more relaxed with the presence of Māori liaison officers."

Harawira's comments have been condemned by National leader Simon Bridges, who told Magic Talk he felt the words Harawira used were "racist" and "disgusting". 

"I would be happy to have police exercise their full independence and do things as they see fit rather than the approach we have at the moment where it seems to me they're not being backed."

Harawira, leader of the Mana Movement party, is standing by his comments, insisting tensions would ease at Ihumātao if the protesters could relate more to the officers there. 

Hone Harawira was an MP for the Maori Party.
Hone Harawira was an MP for the Maori Party. Photo credit: The AM Show

"When you're engaging with someone you're either likely to know, or may even be related to, that helps to make the situation easier to control," he told Magic Talk.

"I sent a text to Wally Haumaha the night before, and by the next morning things had relaxed at the camp, police had been asked to step back, and the Maori liaison officers had been contacted to be available."

Looking back on the language he used, Harawira said: "I think my challenge was heated, and I think the right thing was done by the police being a lot more intelligent."

Harawira's comments on Facebook came amidst several tense moments on the frontline at Ihumātao, including his daughter Anikaaro Harawira-Havili being caught racially abusing an officer after police numbers increased. 

"Another foreigner occupying our whenua in Aotearoa and then not even letting us on our own," she said in a widely circulated video. "F**k off back to your own country."

Harawira defended the language, telling Magic Talk: "When you watch the whole [video], you would have seen that Anikaaro is relatively relaxed until the police pounced on Pani [Newton, the protest leader].

"It's one thing for us to be defending our land, and it's another thing for a person to be coming over here from another land to tell us what we should be doing when perhaps they should be going back to do it in their own area."

Despite his comments, Harawira said he is not racist and said he loves Pākehā people. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has labelled Harawira's Facebook post "totally unacceptable" and said she did not want to give him a platform to discuss if any further. 

The Prime Minister has said she has "no intention" of visiting the protest site in Auckland's Mangere, where thousands have flocked to since July 23 to protest a planned Fletchers housing development. 

Last month she negotiated a temporary halt to construction while a solution was sought.