Kelvin Davis won't be suspended from Labour after comment on ACT's Karen Chhour, Jacinda Ardern says deputy 'too personal'

Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis won't be stood down from the party's caucus after telling a Māori ACT MP to leave "her Pākehā world".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Davis' comments became "too personal" and warranted an apology, but she doesn't believe her deputy should be stood down.

"There is the cut and thrust of the House, but we always do need to make sure we are debating the policy, not the person," Ardern said.

Davis on Thursday morning rang ACT's Karen Chhour to apologise after he told her in Parliament on Wednesday she should "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".

Chhour, who is Māori and was brought up in state care, said she found Davis' comments "hurtful", but accepted his apology.

"Growing up, I always felt lacking in my identity," she said on Thursday. "I finally found that confidence to stand as a proud Māori woman. It was taken away from me yesterday."

She said the comments also hurt her children and her foster mother, who messaged her after the incident.

"She said there's more to being a Māori than just the blood. It's about having aroha and love. I have a lot of aroha and love towards the children of New Zealand and that's all that counts."

Davis told reporters on Thursday afternoon that he's been thinking about his comments and is now acknowledging they weren't appropriate. 

"It wasn't an attack on her whakapapa. The point I was trying to make is that I disagree with ACT's policies," he said. "I didn't choose my words properly and I have since apologised."

Davis, who is the Children's Minister, didn't consider offering his resignation as "there's so much work to be done in Oranga Tamariki".

He said other people often questioned his whakapapa. 

"I grew up with that experience myself being a very pale skin green-eyed, blonde-haired person. So I've had that experience myself… everybody's on a continuum in terms of where they are in the Māori world. I caused offence, I apologise."

ACT Party deputy leader Brooke van Velden wrote to the Prime Minister before Davis' apology asking for her to discipline him. She also suggested a comparison to a situation in the United Kingdom where a Labour MP there this week called the British Chancellor "superficially" black. The MP was then suspended from the party.

Davis denied the situations were similar while Ardern wouldn't say whether she saw any parallels when speaking with reporters in Blenheim.

The Prime Minister said it was right for Davis to apologise. He told her he was intending to apologise before he rang Chhour. 

"He has himself acknowledged that it was too personal and I support the decision he took," Ardern said.

She said politicians in the House sometimes make comments "that on reflection do warrant an apology".

"That is what happened yesterday. I think an apology was warranted. So did the minister and that is why he gave one… In Parliament, mistakes will be made. For me, it is also about what we do to fix those mistakes and making an apology is the right thing to do."

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said Davis' comments weren't acceptable.

"I thought they were too personal. I think he was trying to make a policy point, but he didn't do that and he has apologised," he said. 

"The House is a place where things happen in the heat of the moment. They're not always right. Often the members reflect on that and make a decision to apologise and that's what Minister Davis has done."

He said there was no chance of Davis being suspended.