National leader Christopher Luxon’s flippant comments about gang members congregating in South Auckland garages have come under attack from Māori and Pasifika.
Luxon was interviewed this month about crime, the health system and nursing. When asked about how National would prevent youth crime, Luxon said: “If you’re sitting in a garage in South Auckland with your two brothers and you’re thinking about life and where you’re going, consciously or unconsciously, the gang life looks pretty attractive.”
Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said Luxon’s comment was an outrageous generalisation of South Auckland youth, racist and dog whistle style politics.
“Stay out of my South Auckland garage Chris Luxon,” Sio said.
“Garages are places of family gatherings, for worshipping, funerals, 21st birthdays, Christmas celebrations.”
He told Luxon: “You’re attacking the South Auckland garage with your dog whistle stereotypes, when if you lived in South Auckland you’d know the garage is a sanctuary for many South Auckland families.
“Garages are sanctuaries for families - especially in South Auckland,” he said.
Sio said the comments cut at the core of South Aucklanders.
“So what Luxon has done is attack the heart of South Auckland families and doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into,” Sio told the Herald.
“It’s dog whistle politics and I hope the young people - the generation of the six Bs - brown, beautiful, brainy, bilingual, bicultural and bold - stand up to this guy.
“Luxon does not know South Auckland young people because the majority are good law-abiding, who listen to their parents, give back to their communities through sport and the church and lead good lives.
“He is grouping all South Auckland young people in with the very few who get themselves into trouble.”
Sio’s sentiments were echoed by South Auckland Artist Ema Tavola.
“There are so many resources Luxon could reference to help him craft better narratives, but he could start with South Auckland academic Dr Belinda Borell’s work on white privilege and structural racism. And while Luxon’s words are simply characteristic of his party’s steadfast commitment to the systems that centre and privilege Pākehā men, I felt compelled to tweet into the abyss: don’t EVER come for our garages!,” she told The Spinoff.
“The South Auckland garage that I’ve known and loved for most of my adult life has been a place of safety and sanctuary, deep creativity and transformation.”
Luxon this morning denied he was making a generalisation of South Auckland.
“I wasn’t disrespecting South Auckland at all. Part of my electorate is in South Auckland and I’ve worked a lot of my career in South Auckland, and I know how vibrant a place it is,” Luxon told the Herald.
“I was referring to a specific example and situation I had been made aware of through a conversation with community workers in Counties Manukau. The situation was illustrative of a problem we’ve got in many places around the country with gang numbers going through the roof and a 75 per cent growth in young people 18-25 joining gangs.
“We can’t shy away from talking about these tough issues. We need to target gangs, and we need to understand the causes and what attracts young people to gangs - wherever they reside.
“It was not my intention to disrespect South Auckland in any way. The issues I raised are occurring right across New Zealand.”