Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy have waded into the discussions around comments by Kiwi director Taika Waititi that New Zealand is "racist as f***".

Devoy said she backed the Kiwi director's comments and said other New Zealanders needed to "sit up and listen" to Waititi's lived experience.

Waititi, who has seen his star rise in Hollywood thanks to the box office success of Thor: Ragnarok, made the claim in an interview with musician Ruban Nielson for Dazed and Confused.

"It's racist as f***," Waititi declared near the end of the interview.

Advertisement

"I think New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it's a racist place. People just flat-out refuse to pronounce Maori names properly.

He also mentioned racial profiling of Polynesian people and recalled being followed around in shops as a boy.

Devoy told Jack Tame on Breakfast this morning that said she heard similar stories everyday from Kiwis around the country.

"Good on Taika for having the courage to speak up and tell the truth. We need to actually understand racism is an issue in New Zealand and what are we going to do about it."

Waititi recently fronted a campaign for New Zealand Human Rights, helming a tongue-in-cheek video against racism.

Devoy, who also worked on the campaign, said they "struck the jackpot" when he agreed to front it, and said now he was "walking the talk".

"What Taika's done with these statements is again bringing that conversation to the fore. Let's not be afraid about having a conversation about something that if we address it will make us a better country."

Speaking on the AM Show this morning, Ardern said, "You'd be hard pressed to find a country that didn't have racism in it".

"Is there racism in New Zealand?" she asked.

"Undeniably. Is there racism in most countries? Undeniably. Can we do better? Yes. And I'm really proud of the efforts we make daily to do better."

Ending racism was something we should all strive toward, Ardern said.

When questioned by host Duncan Garner about whether it was fair of Waititi to say New Zealand not just had racism in its culture but was racist "as f***", Ardern pointed out he had prefaced his comments by saying New Zealand was the best place in the world.

She said we needed to acknowledge Waititi was "constantly" promoting the country with his talent as a director and cheeky brand of humour.

In the New Zealand Human Rights video campaign "Give Nothing to Racism" released last year, Waititi said he was "calling on every one of my fellow Kiwis to help support a very important cause, racism … needs your help to survive".

"You may not be in a position to give much to racism, but what you feel comfortable giving will make a difference."

"You don't have to be a full on racist – just being a tiny bit racist is enough."

"A smile, a cheeky giggle, even a simple nod in agreement, it all adds up and gives others the message that it's okay."