Hamilton City Councillor James Casson caught the nation's attention in March when he urged Kiwis to refrain from commemorating the victims killed in the Christchurch mosque terror attacks. Now he's running for mayor - and says his comments were "ill-timed".

"I have that police mentality where I've seen so many bad things in my life. I know what those police officers are going through down in Canterbury when they dealt with that."

Casson was a police officer for 25 years, working in New Zealand and Queensland.

In a video interview with Local Focus, Casson was adamant he is not racist.


"I've worked overseas. I've worked for the United Nations with 40 different nations. And what I was told too, is that in Muslim beliefs, there's a three-day mourning period and the longer you mourn for someone, the harder it is for them in the after-life. That's what I meant. I wasn't meaning any ill will at all to any Muslim people."

After the public outcry that came from his comments, Casson resigned from Immigration New Zealand.

"I didn't want to bring any ill will to Immigration New Zealand. They were getting a bit of heat for it and I thought I would use a bit of integrity there and say 'right okay, I'm going to take the heat off them' because I didn't want anybody else labelled with that."

Casson is optimistic and doesn't see his public slip-ups as a reason not to vote for him.

"You couldn't get a more honest person," he said. "If people want more honesty, council to go back to basics and do what they should be doing - infrastructure, rubbish collected, good quality water coming into your house, and dealing with waste water - then that's what we should be doing for the next three years."

As a mayoral candidate, Casson is pushing to stop what he calls "frivolous spending".

"The Mayor used his casting vote to buy buildings here in the central city worth $4 million, but he paid $3m over that, so that's around $7m. That's ratepayers' money, that he wants to bowl those buildings and turn it into a park.

"The majority of the public are against that. We heard their submissions on it. Around 90 per cent were against it but we still went and bought those buildings.


"I call it now - if we keep spending the way we are, we are going to have a rates rise in three years."

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