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Third councillor involved too

Opinion Piece

It generally takes two people or more to have a conversation.

If someone is prepared to make what most would consider to be an outrageous and racist “joke”, that’s because they expect those they are with to appreciate it. They have probably shared such comments before. If they’re wrong, they risk getting an earful.

The fact Meredith Akuhata-Brown wrote “according to a couple of my colleagues” in attributing the comment she is certain was made during a council lunch break — that “not enough were killed”, in reference to the deaths of up to nine Maori under fire from crew of the Endeavour in 1769 — implies, any possible contextual misunderstanding aside, that this was very much a shared comment.

Therefore a third councillor should be included in the code of conduct review, or at the very least be questioned about their involvement and, if required — if the allegation is proved or strongly suspected to be true — made very clear to them that this sort of conversation, anywhere, is completely unacceptable.

It is right that Mrs Akuhata-Brown is also subject to a review as she did not follow process for a complaint against colleagues, and her chosen course of action risked a loss of public confidence in the office to which they have been elected. Your editor spoke to her before publishing the allegation, and supports her action.

The key reason it is good to have this allegation laid out in the open is that such comments and the prejudices that lie behind them are, sadly, common in our community. They are also incredibly hurtful and undermine the many good efforts by individuals and groups, including the council and iwi, to increase understanding and tolerance.

Together we can make the nation proud in October next year when we commemorate the first meetings of Maori and Europeans here 250 years ago, and forge a bright future for our place. While we are separate, we will never achieve our potential.