25 Jul 2017

Security guard at local govt event accused of racism

7:56 am on 25 July 2017

A security guard hired for a local government conference at SkyCity is being accused of racism after trying to stop an Ōtara local board member as she walked into the building.

Sky City Auckland.

Security guards were provided at the request of Local Government New Zealand in case there were any protests, said a SkyCity spokesperson. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Lotu Fuli, who chairs the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board, is outraged at what happened to her, and said she has since learned she was not the only one.

Registration for the conference opened on Sunday afternoon, ahead of a pōwhiri. Ms Fuli said she turned up about half an hour before it started and saw others going inside to register upstairs.

She noticed a man was standing next to the door, smiling at people who were walking through. But that changed dramatically when she approached, she said.

"He stepped in front of the automatic opening door and put his hand out and sort of said, 'Where are you going?' very sternly so he wasn't smiling any more.

"But I was already kind of in a rush because I was late and I had to be part of the pōwhiri. So I said to him very straightforward: 'I'm here for the local government conference,' and kept walking to go through."

She was really upset, she said.

After the pōwhiri she asked her Palagi colleagues whether they were stopped or challenged at the door and they all said no. Then she saw some of her Māori and Pacific friends who spoke at the conference and asked them.

"Asked them, 'Oh did you guys get stopped by security,' and then they were like, 'Yeah man, we got followed.' They were actually followed by security."

When she realised it was possibly racial profiling she had to say something, she said.

Ms Fuli said she made a formal complaint through the local board services.

"[It's] been taken seriously by [Auckland] Council. And council has already spoken to senior people at Local Government New Zealand and they are following that up with SkyCity."

SkyCity spokesperson Rebecca Foote said she had not yet seen any formal complaint. Security guards were provided at the request of Local Government New Zealand in case there were any protests, she said.

Ms Foote said security were allowed to ask people for identification before letting them into the building. In relation to the conference, the security team said they could not recall anything "out of the ordinary" happening, she said.

Ōtara-Papatoetoe local board member Dawn Trenberth was horrified when Ms Fuli told her about her experience.

She said she personally wasn't challenged at the door and just breezed right in. She said she wanted to raise awareness, so posted about Ms Fuli's experience on Facebook.

"There is a real thing still I think that white people do have a certain amount of privilege. I never experience that sort of thing, I never get stopped or anything like that. But I know that it does happen to people who are not white."

Local Government New Zealand is investigating what happened.

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