NZ Māori Council calls for Simon Bridges to apologise for Tokelau comments

The New Zealand Māori Council says Simon Bridges should apologise for dismissing Tokelau in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

Jacinda Ardern travelled to the tiny Pacific island last week, the first time a New Zealand leader has set foot there in 15 years.

Bridges was scathing of the visit, calling Ardern a "part-time Prime Minister".

"Where is she? She's gone on a trip for days to Tokelau - 1500 people, well every MP has a street in New Zealand which she hasn't visited that has many more people than that," he told media.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson called Bridges' remarks "disrespectful" to the Tokelau community, saying "the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister for all New Zealanders".

Tokelau is a realm country of New Zealand, meaning its 1500 Tokelauans are Kiwi citizens - and if the island's atolls are destroyed by climate change, they could make New Zealand home.

Matthew Tutaki, executive director of the New Zealand Māori Council, has condemned Bridges for "alluding to [Tokelauans'] irrelevance".

"What this man said about a whole section of New Zealand citizens is an absolute disgrace, but also highlights his performance on all issues related to Iwi Māori," he said in a statement.

"Let me be really clear here: Bridges was a member of a nine-year-old Government whereby our people resembled more of a third-world population. It was under his Government's watch that gave rise [to] record numbers of Māori committing suicide.

"It was under his Government's watch that homeless numbers rose, the health system began to falter under the weight of financial mismanagement, that Pharmac became a laughing joke, that more of our children than ever were taken by the state."

Tukaki says Bridges has not demonstrated a strategy to engage with Māori.

"When was the last hui he came to and listened to Māori concerns? When was the last time he sat down and talked with Māori about both the challenges and opportunities we face? I'd also remind the leader of the National Party that going into 2020, there appears to be no Māori strategy at all."

He says Ardern has told Māori to hold her Government to account, which is exactly what they should be doing.

"What we must do and should do is not only hold the current Government to account, we must hold the previous one to account for the fact they presided over a race to the peak when it came to social detriments impacting our people."

He says parties across the political spectrum have to understand their "tired old business models" haven't worked for Māori affairs for more than 150 years.

"It's time we entered into a new era of Māori-Crown relations so we can actually move forward… And it starts with an apology from Bridges and the need to stop the rhetoric and blow-ass behaviour and get on with resolving the issues that confront us."

Bridges has been approached for comment.


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