By Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, RNZ

Sexist, misogynistic and an attack on the leadership of Māori women is how recent remarks by Shane Jones have been described, after he called Ihumātao protest leader Pania Newton a young putiputi - meaning a young flower - during his visit to Rātana last week.

"I am in no way swayed by this constant social media grandstanding by our young putiputi, Pania," the Regional Development Minister said.

"Pania must not pretend that she is something in the Māori world that she is not ... you derive your mana in te ao Māori, not from pleasing Pākehā."

Advertisement

A group of almost 100 Māori academics, activists, artists and political commentators have released an open statement calling him a bully, and some want an apology.

Shane Jones and Pania Newton.
Shane Jones and Pania Newton.

A Cabinet Minister, Jones has always been a vocal opponent of the land occupation at Ihumātao in South Auckland. Newton said his latest remarks were personal.

"I was really taken back, actually. In our entire campaign he has openly criticised us, but he has never taken direct attacks towards us," she said.

"It's not okay for men to marginalise women, especially Māori men to our wāhine Māori. I didn't just find it an attack on just myself, but it was an attack on all Māori women leadership and considering the history of Māori political movements and the role that women have played I felt that it was an attack on that history and the legacies of wāhine toa."

Newton has occupied Ihumātao for the last three years. Her relentless campaigning to have the disputed land returned to mana whenua garnered support from all corners of te ao Māori, including the kiingitanga.

Criminal justice reform advocate Awatea Mita was one of her supporters left furious by Jones's latest remarks.

"As a wāhine Māori leader, I felt a deep sense of hurt by what Shane Jones said.

"Shane Jones is another man who has come in and tried to denigrate Māori women and Māori women leadership. When you look at the history of Shane Jones's statements with Māori women this is where I feel he is highlighting his sexism and his misogyny."

Advertisement

Jones has declined to be interviewed.

Dr Huhana Hickey, who also signed the public statement, said Jones had some answering to do.

"Calling someone a putiputi is rather a condescending statement, dismissing our rangatahi who are doing the hard yards, often, in advocacy and in advocating.

"She [Pania Newton] hasn't been pleasing Pākehā and she has already derived her mana in te ao Māori. She lives out that way, she breathes it. I've watched her, seen her over the years grow in her knowledge of indigenous issues and that woman has mana."

She said Jones should apologise to Newton kanohi ki te kanohi - face to face.

"I think if he kanohi ki te kanohi to her, apology, sit down and listen to her, he will know what she is saying," he said.

"Yes he's a politician but that's not appropriate and in our world we like to kanohi people, sit down and talk to them if we have a raru with them and he didn't do any of that. He just made a media statement that was quite dismissive, condescending and a little bit insulting."

Newton said she would be happy to meet and have a kōrero with Jones.

A resolution to the Ihumātao land dispute is expected to be announced before Waitangi Day.