By AINSLEY THOMSON



Christchurch singing sensation Bic Runga, who left New Zealand to further her career in Paris last year, has labelled her homeland racist.



The musician, who is half Maori and half Chinese, was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph as saying "relationships can be really bad between Maoris and others".



"The Australian situation is probably better known abroad, but unfortunately New Zealand can be a racist place too," she said.

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Runga, one of New Zealand's most successful singer/songwriters, said her childhood in Christchurch was tough and racism was a constant feature.



However, Runga's comments have taken her mother, Sophia, by surprise. She told the Herald yesterday that her daughter had not mentioned those sentiments to her.



"Maybe when she was in school there were kids teasing her, you know, things like that. But I don't know anything else."



Runga, 28, could not be reached for comment in Ireland, where she is recruiting band members.



Her sister, Boh Runga, who fronts the band stellar*, said she wanted to discuss the comments with her sister. Bic's manager, Campbell Smith, said he was not aware of the comments, but would be in contact with her this week.



Runga's views come at a time when the race debate is a hot topic of discussion in New Zealand.



Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres is one person who can understand where Runga is coming from.



He said part of the problem was that New Zealanders liked to portray an image overseas of a country with harmonious race relations.



"But at the same time we are consuming ourselves at home with a major, polarising debate on race relations. I think the challenge is to synchronise the brand we sell overseas and the way we live at home."



Since relocating to Paris last July, Runga has been touring and promoting the release of her second album, Beautiful Collision, in Britain, Ireland, the Continent and Japan.



In the Belfast Telegraph interview, she said she left New Zealand because she was sick of seeing herself in the newspapers.