National leader Judith Collins calls on Marama Davidson to apologise to Nicola Willis over racism row

Opposition leader Judith Collins is calling on Greens co-leader Marama Davidson to apologise for accusing National MP Nicola Willis of "racist and classist undertones".

National's housing spokesperson Willis last week raised public safety concerns about emergency accommodation, saying she didn't feel safe walking around Wellington's CBD. 

"I'm asking questions about an issue I think is very important to New Zealanders: it's about the safety of people living in emergency accommodation and the safety of those living nearby," said Willis.

"There has been an explosion in the number of people living in motels - thousands more - and I'm hearing really scary stories about the circumstances they are living in." 

Davidson said on Twitter she didn't appreciate Willis 'stigmatising' people who are homeless or living in emergency accommodation. 

"I guess what I'm saying is, we need to be mindful of the racist and classist undertones that she is running her 'safety' narrative on."

But a report by Stuff on Monday, citing documents obtained via an Official Information Act request, revealed police staff didn't feel safe at night when walking to their cars in Wellington amid increased COVID-19 alert levels last year and last month. 

As a result, police took over the manning of car parks near the national police headquarters on Molesworth St from the Wellington City Council, said the Stuff report, which was shared by Willis on Twitter.

Nicola Willis.
Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Parliament TV

"Even the police don't think it's safe to walk to their cars at night in Wellington," Willis said on Monday. "We must do more to ensure public safety in our city."

Collins proceeded to call out Davidson's accusations of racism.

"Does Marama Davidson think police were being 'racist and classist' when they took the xtra [sic] care to protect their staff? The Greens co-leader needs to publicly apologise to @NicolaWillisMP," Collins said on Twitter.

The Green party's press office has been contacted for a response to Collins' calls for an apology. Last week, Davidson told Willis in Parliament she stood by her comments.

"If we continue with a narrative that doesn't understand the systemic causes, we will go no further in progressing the reduction of crime. 

"I am accusing a member, a National member of this House, of attempting to stigmatise a group of people with little access to power and resourcing, of attempting to whip up stigmatising and dehumanising narratives around groups of people who need our support, around groups of people who need us to address the systemic causes of crime."

Newshub revealed last week that in the three months to December 2020, the Government spent a whopping $82.5 million on emergency accommodation, compared to $6.6 million during the same period in 2017.