Maori leader Willie Jackson has thrown his support behind Mike Tyson coming to New Zealand and will write a letter to the authorities today saying the former boxer could inspire South Auckland youths to turn their lives around.
Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson yesterday revoked a visa granted to Tyson, a convicted rapist, when it was realised the Life Education Trust, which would have been a charitable beneficiary, did not back his visit.
Ms Wilkinson said the original decision was a finely balanced call and a letter of support from the Life Education Trust had been a significant factor in approving the application.
However, it was revealed yesterday that the letter was written by a volunteer trustee trying to fundraise locally.
Event promoter Max Markson said he did not accept the minister's decision and would try to get another visa issued for Tyson.
Overnight Mr Jackson, who is the chief executive of Manukau Urban Maori Authority, contacted Markson and said he would back Tyson's visit to New Zealand.
"The guy's going to come over with his wife, his two kids, he's going to be here 20 hours, he's hardly going to be able to rape and pillage and wreak havoc on anyone, is he?" Mr Jackson said on RadioLive today.
"I'm into the game of redemption."
Today he would write a letter of support for Tyson.
"It's not just a financial thing for us...but the most important thing is for him coming to South Auckland and looking in the faces of some of the young people who've been damaged, who've gone down the same path as him and saying to them "hey there's another way",'' Mr Jackson said.
Yesterday Prime Minister John Key said revoking Tyson's visa was the right thing to do.
Mr Key, who has previously expressed his displeasure at Tyson's planned visit, said he had not pressured Ms Wilkinson to reverse her decision.
"I think she's made the right decision on the basis of the fact that the Life Education Trust has withdrawn their support."
Tyson was due to arrive on November 15 for his one-man show at Auckland's Vector Arena. He had been granted a visa despite serving three years of a six-year sentence for raping an 18-year-old woman in 1992. Anyone with a conviction of more than five years' imprisonment cannot gain a New Zealand visa.