Auckland University Māori and Pasifika area: Education Minister Erica Stanford disagrees with Deputy PM Winston Peters' stance

The Education Minister says she doesn't believe a designated area for Māori and Pasifika students at Auckland University is segregation.   

Newshub was supplied an image of a sign at the university that said an area was a safe area for "Māori and Pasifika students".   

"This is a designated area for Māori and Pasifika students. Thank you," reads the university Business School sign, which appeared to be located outside a study area.  

The image drew ire from Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and coalition partner ACT leader David Seymour.   

But Education Minister Erica Stanford is taking a different view from her coalition partners telling AM on Thursday her focus is on lifting Māori students' academic achievements.  

"My view on this is the problem is not with the Māori space at Auckland University, it's with the fact that there are not enough Māori to fill it quite frankly," Stanford told AM co-host Lloyd Burr.  

"Twenty percent of our young Māori are at curriculum for mathematics by the time they leave intermediate school, that is not good enough. That is why we're focused on a knowledge-rich curriculum. The right teaching practices like structured literacy, and structured mathematics to make sure our young Māori students are at curriculum by the time they leave intermediate and they're going on to achieve NCEA and are able to go to Auckland University.  

"If we are going to be talking about anything, that is my job, that's my passion to make sure young Māori students are succeeding at school and going on to live the lives they want." 

Stanford said she didn't agree with Seymour and Peters that the areas are akin to racial segregation, adding they have existed for decades.  

"Those spaces have always been there, they were there when I was there, and I am not sure that is racial segregation because I have been in those spaces myself back in the day. They were there 30 years ago.  

"I will go back to what I said which is we are failing young Māori students and if we should be talking about anything – that's it because that's the travesty and we have to do something about closing those gaps."  

Labour MP Willie Jackson, who joined Stanford on AM, said he agreed with "a lot of what Erica just said".   

"The reality is you've got a couple of idiots here. You've got [David] Seymour and Winston [Peters] who are trying to sidetrack...segregation...what a load of nonsense. As Erica said this has been in place for the last 35 years."  

Jackson accused Seymour and Peters of trying to distract from their own failings by attacking the university.  

"Universities have an obligation to look after minorities, to look after women, to look after rainbow, to look after Pasifika, to look after Māori. 

"Tell Seymour and Winston let's get rid of the rooms here [Parliament] then because we've got a rainbow room here, we've got a Māori room here, we've got a women's room here, we've got a Pasifika room here. Absolute rubbish."  

Jackson also complimented his opposition MP saying Stanford was right to focus on lifting Māori academic achievements and not "going down this mad route talking about Apartheid".  

The University meanwhile has stayed tight-lipped refusing to confirm to Newshub that the sign is official. However, Chris Lynch media reported on Wednesday that the University had confirmed the sign was authentic and had removed it.