A column headlined “Waitangi Day a complete waste” by broadcaster Paul Holmes in the Weekend Herald revealed a viewpoint on Māori that has offended many New Zealanders.
The column attracted more than 390 comments before the Herald website turned off the comments function and it has led to formal complaints to the newspaper and complaints to the Human Rights Commission.
The Commission’s Enquiries and Complaints Service will respond to each complainant. The Commission advises complainants to first seek redress from the editor of the Weekend Herald. If they remain dissatisfied at the response, they can approach the Press Council, the complaints body for the newspaper and magazine industry.
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres was dismayed at the language used. “The column was crudely expressed and included stereotypes many would have found offensive.”
He said the column lacked judgment and failed to show the benefit of experience one would expect of a seasoned broadcaster. “For better or worse Paul Holmes is a key influencer of public opinion. I would hope that Mr Holmes realises that this uncommon privilege comes with the responsibility to not denigrate a whole sector of society.”
Many would agree that the sentiments appeared to be directed at all Māori. In his column Paul Holmes wrote: “Never mind the child stats, never mind the national truancy stats, never mind the hopeless failure of Māori to educate their children and stop them bashing their babies. No, it’s all the Pakeha’s fault. It’s all about hating whitey. Believe me, that’s what it looked like the other day.”
Mr de Bres said Paul Holmes was presumably aware of the impact his column would have. “Paul Holmes has a platform, a voice and a constituency, but I would hope that fair-minded readers would agree that the column would offend many people, not just Māori. It cannot be accurate to suggest that fully 15 per cent of the population is as he characterised.”
Mr de Bres was surprised that Paul Holmes did not appear to be aware of the governance and partnership principles of the Treaty of Waitangi derived from court decisions over several decades. These included the need for the Crown’s duty to consult with Māori as Treaty partner, and the need to act in good faith and to be reasonable.
“The origins of bodies such as the Waitangi Tribunal date back to 1975 and its function to address and remedy breaches of the Treaty is something schoolchildren learn.”
In the column Paul Holmes wrote:” This, we will have to address and somehow apply these never-defined principles of the Treaty of Waitangi because it is, apparently, the next big resentment. There’ll be lengthy discussion, we’ll end up paying the usual millions into the hands of the Māori aristocracy and God knows where it’ll go from there.”
The Weekend Herald editor David Hastings has responded to readers making formal complaints with a letter. He defends the column, allowing it was “provocative” but clearly aimed at the behaviour and attitudes of Waitangi Day protesters at Waitangi itself.”