Racial abuse mars family homecoming

By Roger Moroney -
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton is disappointed to hear racism is still rife in Hawke's Bay.
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton is disappointed to hear racism is still rife in Hawke's Bay.

A former Napier woman living with her family in Australia says a recent visit back will be the last for some time, and they would be unlikely to return to live after being racially abused.

"Racism is alive and well in Napier," Elizabeth Webber said as she and her husband and two children prepared to fly back to their home in Coomera on the Gold Coast.

They had returned to visit her husband's family and she had caught up with friends, and on Saturday, the day before they were due to fly out, they had been driving along Hastings St and slowed down for the paved speed bump and Stop sign at the intersection with Vautier St.

Mrs Webber said the speed bumps were confusing as some people treated them as pedestrian crossings where they believed they had right of crossing before a motor vehicle.

But she agreed that out of courtesy if someone was crossing a car should allow him or her to.

"On the approach we noticed no one walking across or approaching the speed hump so we proceeded to go over and wait behind the car in front of us."

She said the back end of their car was on the speed hump for no more than 10 to 15 seconds at the most.

"In that time an elderly man, about 75 to 85, was approaching and then started to walk across the speed hump.

"As he got closer to our car window, he said loud enough for all of us to hear, 'Bloody Maoris'."

Mrs Webber said she was angry, embarrassed and felt humiliated - but was especially upset because her 11-year-old son was also in the car and heard what the man said.

Her husband was also angry but let the incident pass.

It was the family's third visit back since leaving for the Gold Coast in 2009 when the New Zealand economy was in bad shape.

Several other members of the family had also moved to Australia to find work, and had all settled in well.

She said she and her husband had found good jobs, built a good standard of living for the family and said they were accepted for who they were.

"In Australia we are proud to be Kiwi and Maori. There is no division in Australia - we are not Maori or Pakeha, we are all Kiwis."

The incident had soured what had been a good holiday break back to their old home city where they had enjoyed the markets, the revitalised Marine Parade, the restaurants and watching Hawke's Bay beat Wellington.

She said it was sad that racism still reared its head - and she had a few simple words for the elderly man who had confronted them with it.

"Shame on you. We are glad to be going back. Bye, racist man."

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said he was disappointed to hear what had happened.

Napier was not a racist city.

"This is absolutely a one-off thing and we can't control what one individual is going to say," Mr Dalton said, adding Napier was a multicultural society.

"The beauty of Napier is that we are one community."

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