Claims from some in the rural sector that an award for young Māori farmers is racist have been slammed as narrow-minded and ridiculous by the boss of Federated Farmers.
The Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer Award for Sheep and Beef is part of the Ahuwhenua Trophy.
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The trophy was launched in 1933 and is the most prestigious award for Māori agriculture.
A post on the NZ Farming Facebook page showcased the finalists in this year's award.
However it prompted fierce debate by followers, some angry about the competition and calling it racist.
One commented, "Why do we have race-based farming competitions?" while another said "When is the best European young farmers competition coming???"
Another wrote "I would like to speak with someone who can explain how a race-based competition can't be called racist."
Federated Farmers Chief Executive Terry Copeland told Rural Today's Dominic George that the comments were ridiculous.
"How could anyone write that? It's seems so narrow-minded," he said.
"We need to need to understand, reflect and celebrate diversity, and if that means bringing some Ahuwhenua Awards profile, then we absolutely need to do that to encourage more people into the industry," Copeland said.
He recently penned an opinion article for Newshub where he said people needed to be called out for casual racism.
"Unfortunately too many in our community either partake in the odd racist joke having no idea where it can lead," he wrote.
"We as a community need to start having some honest conversations about what is going on. The conversations may be unpleasant at points but everyone, be they from a majority or a minority, needs the opportunity to talk about their experiences and listen to others."
Meanwhile founder of NZ Farming Tyler Fifield told Stuff that he didn't think that comments reflected the majority of followers of the page.
"It is frustrating that people have thrown in some off the cuff comments," he said.
"But I feel it hardly reflects the overall sentiments of most respondents."