14 Feb 2017

New Plymouth mayor condemns colleague's te reo post

7:58 pm on 14 February 2017

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom has condemned comments made on social media about te reo Māori by one of his councillors.

Murray Chong

Murray Chong made comments regarding te reo Māori on his Facebook page. Photo: Glenn Jeffrey

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom has condemned comments made on social media about te reo Māori by one of his councillors.

After earlier saying it was not a council matter, Mr Holdom has released a statement calling on Murray Chong to apologise.

In a private Facebook post which was reposted by one of his friends, Mr Chong described te reo Māori as being "being kept alive on a respirator".

He went on to question whether it was time to stop funding initiatives to revitalise the language.

The shared post attracted hundreds of comments, many condemning Mr Chong as ignorant and a racist, and dozens of shares.

In the statement, Mr Holdom said Mr Chong's comments were upsetting.

"I am deeply disappointed by these comments which were made personally by Mr Chong and do not reflect the view of the New Plymouth District Council.

"I conducted an urgent meeting with Mr Chong today and told him his behaviour is unacceptable. I'm working with Mr Chong to ensure this does not happen again."

The New Plymouth District Council was committed to developing partnerships with Māori in the district and building a stronger, more united community over the coming years, he said.

Four formal complaints have been made about the post.

Mr Holdom said an apology from Mr Chong would conclude the council's formal complaints process.

He did not outline how that apology would be made, or to whom.

Mr Chong told RNZ he had been instructed not to talk to the media.

"Due to a formal complaint into council, which has now activated a complaints process, I have been advised not to talk to media regarding this issue."

Mr Holdom said he had personally been in contact with Taranaki businessman Dinnie Moeahu, who made Mr Chong's Facebook post public.

"I just apologised on behalf of the council for this behaviour. Although this was councillor Chong acting on his own behalf, I understand that the behaviour of any of our council members reflects on the entire organisation and we regret this incident."

Mr Holdom was unable to explain why he had been unable to condemn Mr Chong's comments yesterday when he told RNZ it was not a council matter.

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