New Tauranga City Councillor Andrew Hollis has stirred up controversy within a week of being elected.
Hollis has been accused of racism after comments on social media supporting burning the Treaty of Waitangi, calling it a joke and saying it is past its use-by date.
"There is a general feeling out and around New Zealand where every generation or so, there's another group that stands up and says our forefathers didn't get a good enough deal through the Treaty," Hollis said.
"And it seems to happen fairly frequently that the full and final settlement isn't full and it isn't final, and it goes on and on and on."
Māori historian and iwi representative Buddy Mikaere is one of many local Māori who are dismayed Hollis was elected, despite comments he made on the campaign trail.
The Ihumātao protest is going to be the start of another round of treaty land grabs." "The Mission Street, Gate Pā and the waterfront in Tauranga is all up for grabs as Māori begin to lean on the UN Indigenous People's Pact instead of the Waitangi Tribunal." "All of the Waitangi settlements except Ngāpuhi are done, get ready, they're coming for private land now.
Mikaere said such comments showed a lack of understanding about the Treaty of Waitangi and Tauranga history.
"It shows a lack of empathy for an important part of the community which, as a councillor, you should be careful about," he said.
It's not the first time Hollis has caused outrage but, as a representative for Tauranga and city councillor, his words are being taken more seriously.
"You expect a councillor to represent the interests of everybody, not just particular segments. And to demonise one part of a community as being on a "Treaty gravy train" is very disturbing," Mikaere said.
Less than a week after being elected, there are calls for Hollis to resign.
"That's fine, that's up to them," Hollis said. "I've certainly got ... 7000 people who thought I was the right person and I haven't hidden any of my views.
"So stepping down because they think this guy is a racist? Well you're wrong for a start and perhaps they need to meet me and rethink their view. But there's also a large number of people who have accepted that my views are fine."
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says Hollis should stand down.
"All elected members must swear an oath to abide by the Local Government Act which includes Treaty obligations," Foon said.
"Māori were the first people of our country, and the Crown invaded Māori territory, breached the Treaty of Waitangi and took away over 90 per cent of the land.
"Māori are on no gravy train," he said. "They are claiming what is rightfully theirs and they are only getting less than 1 per cent of their land back."
In another online comment, Hollis suggested burning the Treaty, but he says that should be taken in context.
"That was a conversation with a local woman. It got quite heated on Facebook and it ended that way. What I should have said is 'the Tribunal', it's the [Waitangi] Tribunal that I would prefer to see finished. The Treaty itself is the founding document and I think it should be treated as such."
Māori representation advocate, Blanche McMath believes Hollis' election on to council exposes an underbelly of racism in Tauranga.
"Pockets of Tauranga are bigoted and racist," she said. "The fact they have elected a person who wanted to burn the Treaty over Māori candidates, speaks volumes and can't be ignored.
"If Tauranga can't see the racism or problems with those comments, they really need to take a look into our history, to examine it and do some research."
It's a difficult first challenge for new mayor Tenby Powell, who was this week working on greater collaboration with local iwi.
"We are divided on cultural and social issues all over Tauranga Moana," Powell said. "It's time for us to stop and talk to each other, meet each other and gain a greater level of mutual understanding so we can progress a lot of what we are doing together."
Powell does not believe that Hollis should stand down.
"Andrew's been elected by the constituents he represents and it is their vote that has enabled Andrew to be on council."
Hollis isn't fazed by the criticism and denies he is racist.
"If you think that making a stand about 'calling New Zealand one' and 'growing together' is racist then fill your boots, but you're wrong."
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