Shane Jones' Indian comments 'racist, ignorant, harmful' - Race Relations Commissioner

New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner has condemned Shane Jones for making "racist" comments, which he says can embolden those with xenophobic views.

On Newshub Nation on Saturday, Jones, the Regional Economic Development Minister, said he was "astounded how quickly the last million people arrived in New Zealand" and called for a debate about population growth. 

"If you want another million, 2 million, 3 million people, we should debate it and there should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options, unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi. I don't like that idea at all. I think the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions," Jones said.

Those comments angered the Indian community and were criticised as "wrong" by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday. 

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has now condemned the remarks as "racist, ignorant and harmful". 

"Shane Jones' continued racist and ignorant statements against Indian communities must stop. As a leader in Government, his words are irresponsible and harmful to many Indian, migrant, and ethnic communities," he said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"These types of comments divide us as a country and embolden those that hold racist and xenophobic views."

Foon said the "stereotyping" goes against the Māori value of manaakitanga (hospitality) and undermined "the rich contributions that the Indian community has made since first arriving in the mid-1800s". 

"This month, New Zealand will mark two important events, the one year anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque shootings and Race Relations Day, that remind us of the ugliness of racism and hate," Foon said.

"Shane Jones’ comments are an affront to these important moments when New Zealanders should be coming together to support one another."

The Commissioner said in election year leaders must "stop using minorities as their whipping post".

RNZ reported earlier on Tuesday that despite Ardern saying his language was "loose" and "wrong", Jones was unrepentant and didn't believe most people would consider the comments racist.

"I challenge anyone in New Zealand to disagree with me in terms of the sad regularity with which we are seeing egregious cases of abuse, in the media, coming from the Indian migrant community upon their own. In fact, they're appearing in courts with more regularity than the Mongrel Mob.

"It's probably a generational style. I don't belong to the tribe of woke snobbery. I'm a 60-year-old Croatian-Māori from Kaitaia, beer drinking, plain-speaking, red meat eating politician."

It's not the first time Jones has come under fire for comments about the Indian community. Late last year, he defended an Immigration New Zealand marriage policy by saying those who disagreed with it could "catch the next flight home". He called outrage a "Bollywood overreaction".