The driver of a car involved in an incident with family members of Auckland Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins at Te Atatu on Monday has come forward with a different version of events.
Collins and his wife Fia yesterday claimed they were nearly run off the road by "irresponsible cowards" in two vehicles hurling abuse at them.
In a Facebook post, Fia Collins said "as we were driving together these vehicles dangerously cut us off at the merging lane where KFC Te Atatu is".
She said at first she did not think they had seen them, "but then they beeped their horns, wound their windows down and did all sorts of hand signals at us".
Collins said the incident rattled his wife, who was driving his campaign vehicle with their two daughters, saying "to be hurled abuse at is disappointing because our girls are witnessing this behaviour".
Members of his campaign team laid a complaint with police and provided photos of the two cars showing their licence plates.
The driver of one of the cars, Tai Kalepo, said there was a road rage incident between himself and the driver of a white Holden where Fia Collins may have got caught up in a bit of crossfire while driving her husband's campaign vehicle.
The incident started when Kalepo was on the northwestern motorway and noticed the driver in a white Holden driving erratically.
The sociology student said claims by Fia Collins that he and the driver of the Holden were beeping their horns and doing all sorts of hand signals at the family, "none of that happened".
"I don't know where a lot of her information came from because as we got towards KFC, the driver of the Holden jumped on the median strip, zoomed down on the right and jumped in front of me and Mrs Collins," he said.
After the vehicles came to a stop at a set of lights, Kalepo said, he and the other driver had an exchange with their windows wound down; the other driver pumping his fist and telling him to "f… off". Mrs Collins would not have heard anything because she was behind the two cars, he said.
"Their campaign van was in no way a target of hate. No horns were sounded at her, profanity or any other form of verbal communication was made at or towards her.
"If this is some type of sympathetic way of Mrs Collins getting votes, it's pretty low," Kalepo said.
He was certain Efeso Collins was not in the campaign vehicle with Mrs Collins and noticed in his rear view mirror further down the road that Mrs Collins was using her mobile phone while driving.
Kalepo, who, like Efeso Collins is Samoan, and an "avid supporter" of his bid for the mayoralty, messaged Fia Collins early today to apologise for any unnecessary part he played in the incident.
He had not received a response from her more than three hours later when he spoke to the Herald.
In a brief statement to the Herald, Collins said the driver of one of the vehicles contacted his wife and offered a heartfelt and sincere apology.
"She has accepted their apology, removed part of the Facebook post in acknowledgement of their emailed exchange and offered to meet them in person over coffee.
"This has brought a sense of closure to this incident for our whānau. My family are the driving force in my life and their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance to me," the statement.
Collins' statement did not address the different version of events, the claims he was not in the vehicle and his wife was using a phone while driving, which were put to him by the Herald through his campaign team.
The Herald has made further attempts to contact Efeso and Fia Collins for comment about these matters but has not received a reply.
This is a second incident involving Efeso and Fia Collins.
Shortly after he was elected to the council in 2016, Collins alleged he was the victim of racial discrimination at a swearing-in ceremony at Auckland Town Hall.
Collins said his wife, then four-year-old daughter and elders were initially told that they could not sit in a special area reserved for council guests. When his wife said they were guests, no one believed them.
An investigation was conducted between Auckland Council and Regional Facilities Auckland - the council-controlled organisation responsible for the Town Hall.
The investigation found that the Collins' family were eventually seated in the area reserved for councillors' guests and no evidence of any Town Hall staff being responsible for causing offence to family members.