Some Tauranga locals agree with Māori Party that their city is racist

By Leah Tebbutt of RNZ

Te Pāti Māori have made the decision to not stand a candidate in the upcoming Tauranga by-election due to safety concerns.

The party says a string of racist incidents in the city, including a white supremacist leaflet drop, has caused them to opt out of the race altogether - and in doing so protect their mana.

Some Tauranga locals agree.

"Absolutely [it is]. I am of Cook Island decent but white, so I have a lot of white privilege. I guess I get to walk in both worlds and I see it daily."

It was the response of one local questioned on whether or not Tauranga is a hotspot for racism.

It was the phrase Te Pāti Māori president Che Wilson shared when announcing the decision to not stand.

"With the state of things in Tauranga it's not safe. Tauranga has been a hot spot where there have been multiple issues - whether it be with Treaty settlements, and the return of different cultural sites.

"Or whether it has been different events where te reo Māori has been used and the speaker has been booed down."

The by-election is to replace former National Party leader Simon Bridges, who is retiring from politics.

Wilson said the Māori Party did not often stand in general seats, but this time considered it.

However, he did not want to open his people up to any form of abuse while on the campaign - although said there would be a candidate at next year's general election.

"The big problem that we are going to face, and it is definitely going to happen next year as well, is there is already signs from the right that they will be using race as a political card which isn't good enough."

Some Tauranga residents wholeheartedly agreed that their city was racist.

"It's an old city that has been built on old families and not the Māori families that were here first, it's built on the white families that took from them," one said.

"There is this generation, where the sad thing is, it feels like we are waiting for them to die so something can happen here."

One man, originally from South Africa, agreed.

"Definitely it's out there. I don't actually know how it compares to the rest of the country, but it is definitely here."

Others weren't so sure.

"Can't say for sure but my experience from day to day life in Tauranga hasn't shown that."

ACT leader David Seymour said the Te Pāti Māori claim Tauranga was a hotbed for racism insulted an entire electorate.

While in Tauranga on the by-election campaign, Seymour said it was ironic for Te Pāti Māori to group a whole electorate as racist.

"They're doing exactly the thing that we should all be against, which is typecasting and stereotyping.

"The idea that an electorate at least of 70,000 people should all be typecast, is just disgraceful."

Seymour's candidate for Tauranga, Cameron Luxton, proudly stated he is one of the few candidates born and raised in the city.

He admitted there has been some racist incidents seen in the media, but said the Māori Party should be ashamed of themselves for casting the whole electorate as racist.

"But these are small events. To blow that up as a representative sample on a whole group of people is just wrong."

Labour's candidate in the by-election said Tauranga had seen issues with racism, but defended its diversity.

Jan Tinetti said she was sad the Māori Party felt the way it did.

She said residents had a right to feel safe and it did not reflect the city they knew.