Oriini Kaipara says Labour's Kelvin Davis owes ACT's Karen Chhour an apology after 'degrading' comments

Oriini Kaipara says Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis owes Māori ACT MP Karen Chhour an apology after his "degrading" comments in Parliament.

The Minister for Children made the comments during a clash with Chhour, who was raised in state care, over Oranga Tamariki on Wednesday.

"What the Member needs to do is cross the bridge that is Te Tiriti o Waitangi from her Pākehā world into the Māori world and understand exactly why, how the Māori world operates," Davis said. 

"It's no good looking at the world through a vanilla lens," he added.

Chhour, who is a proud Māori woman of Ngāpuhi descent, told Newshub Davis' comments upset her. 

"I am a Māori woman and I'm a proud Māori woman," she said. "Attacking somebody's mana like that just because they disagree with you is unacceptable."

Karen Chhour said Kelvin Davis has attacked her mana.
Karen Chhour said Kelvin Davis has attacked her mana. Photo credit: Newshub.

It's a view shared by Newshub broadcaster Oriini Kaipara who told AM on Thursday Davis' comments were "below the belt" and her heart goes out to Chhour.

"It is degrading of her mana," Kaipara said.

"I think Kelvin Davis does owe her a proper apology for pretty much trampling her mana in a public domain."

Kaipara said a lot of Māori, including herself, live in urban centres but it doesn't make them any less Māori. 

"If the insinuation from Kelvin Davis is you're seeing the world through a vanilla lens because the society you grew up in isn't a typical rural community around a marae doesn't make you Māori, then he would also be claiming that I'm not Māori enough."

AM host Ryan Bridge agreed, saying Davis should have debated on merits, not personal attacks. 

"He's going after not only her personally but her race," Bridge said.

A similar situation is unfolding in the UK where an MP described Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng as "superficially" black.

Rupa Huq was forced to apologise for the comments and has been suspended from sitting as a Labour MP, pending an investigation, the BBC reported.

Davis's office did not confirm whether he has spoken to Chhour since the comments.

Davis told Newshub in a statement he "absolutely acknowledge[s] Karen's whakapapa" and hopes his comments did not cause her any personal offence.

"What I was referring to was the ACT Party's policies in general including her recent Member’s Bill calling for a 'colourblind' approach to child protection," Davis said.

"The ACT Party often preaches about being the party for all, but if they truly want that then I do encourage them to cross over the bridge that is Te Tiriti so that they can view the issues they care about from a Māori lens."