David Seymour denounces critics who call him a 'useless Māori', racist

ACT leader David Seymour has denounced critics who call him racist and a "useless Māori".

Earlier this year, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson unleashed on Seymour after the ACT leader suggested policies to abolish the likes of the Ministry of Māori Development. Jackson said Seymour was "absolutely deliberately dog-whistling" and "perpetuates lies and myths". He went on to call Seymour a "useless Māori".

At the time, Seymour said Jackson's comments showed why the Ministry of Māori Development needed to be disbanded.

In a new interview with broadcaster Moana Maniapoto on Whakaata Māori, Seymour denied he was a useless Māori.

"I'd just like to let it be known that I consider myself a very useful Māori and it was very mean of Willie, but there you go, that's his problem, not mine," he said.

Maniapoto said no one doubts his Ngapuhi whakapapa, but asked him why he wasn't a stronger advocate for Māori.

"That's a real shame that they think te ao Māori is too narrow for the views that I expound, which are based on a free society, which I think is the best place for people to thrive and prosper over time."

Seymour said if his critics spent more on his views and not trying to attack his identity of whether he was good or bad, they "might actually learn something".

"Now they may think that you can't be Māori and have those views, or you are a useless Māori, or not an advocate for Māori, but I would say to them that their disagreement is not with my Māoriness but with my view," he said.

Maniapoto told him she had just come back from her marae where people told her Seymour is "dangerous" and "doesn't get it". 

But Seymour said there are a lot of people who tell him he does get it and the concerns he has are authentic worries that any country in New Zealand would have.

"What I think is dangerous is the idea, we are talking past each other and no longer committed to some old values which have got New Zealand as far as it's come."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Whakaata Māori

The pair also discussed Seymour's views on co-governance - which his party opposes - and he said he wants a prosperous Aotearoa for all New Zealanders based on need, not heritage.

He said New Zealand has democracy and human rights on the one hand and the idea of a te Tiriti-centric Aotearoa with tangata whenua and tangata tiriti on the other - which "is incompatible".

"If anyone says it is dangerous or dog-whistling to discuss that, then I would put it back to them that they are endangering New Zealand by suppressing that discussion," Seymour said.

Seymour has previously been targeted for his Māori policies, which include policies abolishing "demographic ministries", such as the Ministry of Māori Development and Ministry for Women, and getting rid of the Māori Health Authority.

In May, soon after Jackson took his swing against Seymour, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said it was clear the ACT leader didn't support the political aspirations for Māori communities or Māori leadership - and "for a modern New Zealand politician, that is completely unacceptable".

She claimed he was "whistling to the lowest forms of decency". 

"It is completely without decency. It is whistling to offensive racism."

The Māori Party co-leaders were both frank with their assessments at the time when asked their thoughts on Jackson's view that Seymour is a "useless Māori".

"I wouldn't have called him that," said Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. "I would have called him, he's more of a non-Māori who happens to be Māori. He's a Pākehā who happens to be Māori, isn't he."

"What is David?" she asked her co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

He replied: "David is a disgrace, to be quite honest. You can't use your Māori whakapapa to weaponise against your own people. People have said, is he the next Don Brash. No, he is not the next Don Brash, he is worse because he actually has Māori whakapapa."