Korean, Indian community groups call for Hamish Walker to apologise for 'racist' comments

Indian and Korean communities groups are condemning 'racist' comments made by National MP Hamish Walker about New Zealanders returning from Asia. 

A number of groups representing Asian New Zealanders called for Walker to apologise in an open letter on Friday. 

"Racist sentiments towards certain minority groups have gotten worse during the pandemic around the globe, and Aotearoa was not an exception, with physical and verbal assaults on Asian people and more," the letter read. 

"Such scaremongering comments only fuel the racist sentiments and divide the communities. Please take responsibility and apologise."

The letter also branded Walker's comments as "absolutely disgraceful". 

"When you say such a thing, the people from India, Pakistan and Korea, receive looks of despise, rude encounters at shops, schools, and within their own communities where they live and contribute just like everyone."

More than 1700 New Zealanders have signed a petition demanding that Walker apologise for his comments. 

In a press conference earlier in July, Walker said up to 11,000 people arriving from overseas could be destined for quarantine in the South Island.

"It's absolutely disgraceful that the community hasn't been consulted on this," he said. 

"These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea." 

At the time, Walker's comments were condemned by Minister Megan Woods who called them "disgraceful and reprehensible".

"They are also misleading, he is scaremongering and is frankly, being racist. The returning New Zealanders he is trying to whip up a public frenzy about, are citizens and permanent residents who must stay somewhere safe to ensure that COVID-19 is not spread in the community.

Woods said Walker must also account for how he came up with his 11,000 people figure.

"Walker needs to take a breath and wait for the facts, and reflect on the sentiment he is so clearly trying to ignite," she said.

But Walker rejected the comments were racist. 

"Calling me a racist is Labour's default tactic when they are unable to defend their blatant failures - this isn't about race, it is about the countries these Kiwis are coming from." 

Walker said his comments were based on facts he had been given by a source. 

On Wednesday, Walker announced he would not seek re-election in Southland after admitting to passing confidential COVID-19 patient details to the press, handed to him by ex-National Party president Michelle Boag. 

Walker was stripped of his portfolios by Muller on Tuesday.