Te Pāti Māori won't stand candidate at Tauranga by-election due to 'safety issue'

Te Pāti Māori won't stand a candidate at the Tauranga by-election "on the basis of a safety issue", claiming the party's co-leaders have received threats and hate speech from residents there.

The by-election, forced by the resignation of National MP Simon Bridges (who is Māori), will take place on June 18, with a number of candidates already confirmed. That includes National's Sam Uffindell, Labour's Jan Tinetti and ACT's Cameron Luxton.

But the Māori Party won't be standing a candidate, its president Che Wilson announced on Friday morning, "on the basis of a safety issue". 

Wilson mentioned a Department of Internal Affairs report published in April which showed "hate speech from white supremacists on social media is the largest form of hate speech in this country".

He said Tauranga is a "hotspot", with residents being "subjected to white supremacist leaftlet drops".

Co-leaders Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Rawiri Waititi have also "been the recipient of threats and hate speech by Tauranga residents", Wilson said.

"By standing in the By-election, we would be consciously sending our people into an unsafe environment and can only imagine how hard this is for our whanaunga and iwi of Tauranga Moana," Wilson said in a statement. 

"We are focused on a more just Tiriti-centric Aotearoa. To get to this place requires more contribution to help lift Māori up to the same starting point as others in Aotearoa. This is currently being bandied around as being unfair, disproportionate and undemocratic, we know this is rubbish but have to continually fight for equity on our journey to a better Aotearoa."

While the party believes Tauranga Moana is an "amazing place", Wilson says "this is politics and the race card will mean that Māori will be used by some as a political football and we are unwilling to expose our people to that rubbish".

In his statement, Wilson said te reo Māori had been belittled at a public event in Tauranga.

He mentioned a recent hate-speech conviction. It's reported that a man filmed a video from his Pāpāmoa home in May last year calling for the killing of Māori. That man was convicted in April in the Tauranga District Court. Pāpāmoa is in the Bay of Plenty electorate.