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Complaints about Mutu 'racism' dismissed

By Northern Advocate -
Dr Margaret Mutu's comments have been labelled 'racist' by Ngapuhi leader David Rankin. Photo / NZ Herald
Dr Margaret Mutu's comments have been labelled 'racist' by Ngapuhi leader David Rankin. Photo / NZ Herald

The Human Rights Commission has dismissed a complaint by Ngapuhi activist David Rankin against a Maori academic who called for restrictions on white immigrants.

Comments by Ngati Kahu Runanga chairwoman Margaret Mutu that many white migrants from countries such as South Africa, England and the United States brought with them an attitude of white supremacy destructive to Maori, sparked about 30 complaints to the Race Relations Commissioner.

In an email to Mr Rankin, Race Relations Commissioner Boris de Bres said although he deplored Professor Mutu's suggestion that New Zealand should discriminate against white-skinned people from certain countries, the Bill of Rights Act allowed people to speak their mind.

Mr de Bres also quoted the Education Act, which, he said, respected the freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test perceived wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions.

Professor Mutu, who is also head of the Department of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland, claimed Maori were generally supportive of immigration from Asian countries

David Rankin, a leader of the Matarahurahu hapu of Ngapuhi, claimed Professor Mutu had "gone too far'' and breached the Race Relations Act with her statements demonstrating discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic and national origins.

Mr Rankin yesterday issued a statement entitled "Race Relations Office confirms Professor Mutu racist''.

He said her comments offended many of his people, but the matter could be resolved if she and the university apologised and attended a reconciliation hui his hapu was prepared to host.

The Human Rights Commission labelled the release as misleading.

The University of Auckland defended Professor Mutu.

"While we regret that some people were offended and upset by Professor Mutu's remarks, Mr de Bres' email confirms our position that she was entitled to raise a contentious issue publicly,'' a university spokesman said.

Professor Mutu questioned who Mr Rankin represented. ``I haven't met him, haven't seen him at any hui of the Tai Tokerau leaders and I can't find out who he actually represents other than himself,'' she said.

Mr Rankin had been told previously by Ngati Kahu when he criticised her through the media to learn his history and get his facts right, she said.

Professor Mutu also questioned how Mr Rankin had held on to Mr de Bres' reply for nearly a month. ``Is it because Ngati Kahu has just issued a press release on our win in the High Court against Carrington Farms and the Far North District Council?'' she asked.

Professor Mutu referred to a High Court decision last week that quashed the Far North District Council consents allowing plans by United States billionaire Paul Kelly to build holiday homes on top of an ancient burial cave on Karikari Beach.

Mr Rankin said Professor Mutu knew him and his late father well.

As a descendant from the whanau of Hone Heke, he had the mandate to represent his hapu.

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