Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis rings Māori ACT MP Karen Chhour to apologise for 'Pākehā world' comment

Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis has rung Māori ACT MP Karen Chhour to apologise for telling her to leave "her Pākehā world".

Davis said he didn't intend for it to be offensive but that he can see why she thought it was and he was sorry, Newshub has been told.

Chhour has accepted the apology.

"Kelvin called and offered an apology which I have accepted. No person should be judged by their identity but rather by their words and actions," she said.

"I will continue to ask Kelvin questions about our most vulnerable children and I hope next time he comes prepared with information instead of personal attacks."

ACT wrote to the Prime Minister on Thursday morning asking her to discipline Davis by suspending from the party caucus.

Newshub understands while the Prime Minister didn't ask him to apologise, Davis did inform her before making the call.

Davis, the Children's Minister, on Wednesday replied to a question from ACT MP Karen Chhour by telling her to "cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi from her Pākehā world into the Māori world". He also said it was "no good looking at the world from a vanilla lens".

Later, when reminded Chhour is Māori, Davis doubled down. 

"I know. She whakapapas to Māori," he said. "But she was raised in a Pākehā world. She needs to cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi so she gets to understand her Māori world better."

He said in a statement on Wednesday evening he acknowledged "Karen's whakapapa and hope my comments did not cause her personal offence".

ACT deputy leader and whip Brooke van Velden wrote to Jacinda Ardern to "raise my concerns" about Davis' comment. She said Davis "attacked [Chhour's] world view, mana and race rather than the issue at hand".

"I would hope you agree that no person should be judged by their identity, but rather by their words and actions."

Van Velden said Ardern should look at what British Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer did in response to comments one of his MPs made about UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Labour MP Rupa Huq this week said of Kwarteng, "superficially he is a black man". The MP was forced to apologise and suspended.

"I am asking you to do the same in the case of Kelvin Davis," van Velden said. "All representatives of this House should be able to express their view, enter debate or question Government Ministers without their race or mana being questioned."

Van Velden said in a statement Davis' comments were "race-based slurs" and that ACT leader David Seymour would raise them with the Race Relations Commissioner.

"Our caucus will not stand by and allow this sort of attack. It’s not only offensive to Karen, but to all New Zealanders.

"Karen is a proud Māori woman of Ngāpuhi descent.

"The minister's comment attacked her world view, mana, and race rather than the issue at hand.

"Karen was raising important issues around contracts involving Oranga Tamariki. Instead of taking issues around our most vulnerable children seriously, Davis launched a personal attack."

Chhour, who was raised in state care, told Newshub on Wednesday she felt like Davis should take her lived experience seriously.

"It feels like if you don't agree with us, you're not a real Māori, or you're not Māori enough, or you don't have the mana of a Māori, and I find that quite hurtful," she said.