Running mate Christine Fletcher distances herself from John Tamihere's use of Nazi slogan

The running mate of Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere is distancing herself from his use of a Nazi slogan.

On Tuesday evening, Tamihere and Phil Goff took part in a mayoral debate at Ponsonby's Chapel Bar where they were asked about the future of Auckland for their grandchildren.

Goff said he wanted them to grow up in an inclusive, diverse city, and called back to an earlier question over his support for banning controversial right-wing figures Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern from speaking in Council-owned venues. 

"We won't put up with the sort of nonsense we get from racists coming into this country to tell us that multiculturalism doesn't work."

He said his soon-to-be-born grandson, who is of mixed-race parentage, will represent the future of Auckland. 

"Well I say Sieg Heil to that," John Tamihere replied.

That comment  - a rallying cry for members of the Nazi Party - has been widely criticised and Tamihere isn't apologising. 

Instead, he says he doesn't regret using it within the context of highlighting Goff as acting like a dictator by shutting down Molyneux and Southern. Goff denies he personally made the decision, but did support it. 

Christine Fletcher - who is running to be Tamihere's deputy - has now written a Facebook post saying while she understands he "passionately believes in freedom of speech", she believes "in the heat of a recent debate he erred".

"I promised nine months ago to support John in his bid for the Auckland Mayoralty," she said.

"I continue to support John and believe he will be a strong mayor for Auckland but advised him today, Suffrage Day, that his recent comments were hurtful. He is respectful of my position."

She also spoke of her respect for the Jewish community and support of a memorial to the Holocaust being built on the Auckland Domain "using stone from the genocide in Warsaw" gifted to New Zealand.

"Now is the time to make this happen. We need education and understanding that our world must never again allow an event of this kind to occur."

Tamihere defended his comment on Thursday while speaking to RNZ. 

"The context is extraordinarily important. The question was would I ban two right-wing Canadians from use of Auckland city properties. The answer to that question is absolutely not," he told RNZ on Thursday morning. 

"We have to defend the right for freedom of speech. You can't have a dictator determine that if you don't think like Goff you are not allowed to use the property."

He said using the comment was "fair enough" within that context and his critics weren't his "thought police".

"Sieg Heil for a guy that acts like Hitler is fair enough in a debate.

But Holocaust Centre of New Zealand chief executive Chris Harris says Tamihere's comment was offensive regardless of context. 

"There is a clear difference between free speech and hate speech. Hate speech, must never, ever have a place in New Zealand. It is hard to think of a clearer example of the dictionary definition of hate speech than the words used by John Tamihere," Harris said in a statement.

Goff has also slammed the comment, calling it "irresponsible and stupid".