The whānau of a Rotorua teen who says she was the victim of racial profiling at Farmers in Tauriko, Tauranga, are awaiting their mediation date through the Human Rights Commission.
Aiomai Nuku-Tarawhiti, 15, and her Tauranga cousin, Shae Brown, 25, say they were the victims of "racial profiling" by a Farmers staff member. They say the staff member told Aiomai she looked "undesirable".
Aiomai and Brown were shopping in the perfume section on December 11 and unable to find the brand they wanted when they say they were approached by the staff member and asked to leave.
They said the staff member told them security had alerted her that the pair did not look like they were going to buy anything and could steal something.
The pair said the staff member told them if they wanted to stay, they would need to be followed while they shopped.
The cousins spoke out about it to the Rotorua Daily Post in the hope it stopped similar incidences. In a tearful video, Aiomai detailed the hurt it had caused. The video went viral and Farmers' Facebook page attracted thousands of comments and posts from outraged New Zealanders.
Aiomai's grandfather Hone Tarawhiti told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday they had made an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission and a face-to-face meeting had been requested.
Tarawhiti said the commission had been in touch and mediators were on holiday until the end of the month but once they returned, one would be selected and they would set a date.
He said a mediation hearing would likely be heard in February. Tairawhiti said the family wanted the staff member reprimanded, a national apology, acknowledgement of the hurt they had caused and assurance Farmers staff would be trained in cultural awareness.
"We are so committed to this. We know we are in the right and we won't back down. We are going all the way. Depending what happens at mediation, we will have a plan B."
A Farmers spokesperson said yesterday it was committed to the mediation process with the family and the Human Rights Commission.
An email to the family at the end of last year, from a Farmers representative, said it was working to bring the internal investigation "to a conclusion as soon as possible".
It said: "I can advise that on the information available to me so far, Farmers does not consider that there is likely to be any basis for the allegations of racism."
The email said Farmers welcomed the opportunity to discuss its findings with the family and suggested this be done through Human Rights Commission mediation to help "enable us to understand each other's point of view and bring matters to a conclusion".
The email ended by saying: "I wish to raise that we are very concerned at the level of abuse and harassment directed towards [a Farmers employee] verbally and on social media, which seems to emanate from your supporters. I respectfully request that you take steps to encourage this behaviour to stop."
The email upset the family as Tarawhiti said he couldn't help the way the nation had responded.
Meanwhile, he said his granddaughter was still suffering emotionally, would still cry and was uncomfortable shopping.
He said she was leaving to spend time with her East Coast family at Hicks Bay for the rest of her school holidays to gain strength from swimming in the sea and river, and being around extended whānau.
Tarawhiti said the family had been humbled by the response since going public with their story, saying they had received about 14 gifts and donations.
Among the items given to them was money, prezzie cards, clothing, flowers and cards. A Tongan church minister in Auckland sent Aiomai a pair of Michael Jordan shoes and the cousins were given a voucher for a boat ride and soak at some hot pools.
Tarawhiti said they ensured Aiomai responded to every gift individually and she and her mother did a video of thanks to everyone who sent something.
"It is a humble pleasure to watch the love of the nation unfold and she knows we aren't the sort of whānau to take advantage of that kindness."