5 Apr 2013

Call for resignation over sterilisation remarks

9:56 pm on 5 April 2013

A Maori health advocate says a Palmerston North city councillor should retire for suggesting Maori women should be sterilised to prevent them smoking in front of their children.

Bruce Wilson is apologising unreservedly for the comment made at a committee meeting on Wednesday night as part of discussions on a proposed smokefree policy in the North Island city.

Mr Wilson said on Friday he wasn't advocating sterilisation, but that in expressed frustration over what he believed was an ineffective proposal he made a "stupid" remark at the end of meeting.

"I illustrated the point I was trying to make ineptly and there's no way out of that. I have to live with that forever and I don't want to become a distraction."

Mr Wilson said he will be apologising at a council meeting next week and is trying to contact everyone at the council meeting to apologise in person.

But Marewa Glover, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research at Auckland University, says Bruce Wilson needs to do more than apologise - and his comments are an example of the racism that is rife in New Zealand society.

"I don't think it is enough, I think he needs to retire. It's inappropriate for anyone in a leadership position in New Zealand now to hold that kind of an attitude, to have that level of racism and sexism. It's time for him to step down."

Dr Glover said that Mr Wilson has hurt all Maori women with the comments but has also hurt older pakeha men, who he will be seen to represent.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said Mr Wilson's comments are "absolutely appalling".

"I just felt that it was a quite a victim-blaming attitude, because we all know how seriously addictive cigarette smoking is."

Mrs Turia said Mr Wilson appears to be apologising because he is worried about his chances of re-election, but it would be positive if the issue makes him and others think more carefully before they speak.

Manawatu mayor Jono Nayor is pleased Mr Wilson has apologised, but said the comment is already distracting attention from plans to discourage smoking in central Palmerston North.