Many Hobson’s Pledge supporters have been in touch with us asking what can be done about the blatantly racist poem and stage show funded by Creative NZ and celebrated in the New Zealand Legacy Media.

I’m e-mailing you to let you know that I have written to Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage Hon Carmel Sepuloni and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon regarding the matter, but it seems they are hoping the story will simply fade away. Today’s news; tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper!

Although I have urged them to take action and treat this racism as seriously as they would if any other race were being targeted, Meng Foon is sticking his head in the sand and intends to dodge any calls for him to take action.

This just isn’t good enough.

We need your help to bring more attention to this atrocious negligence.

We need at least $50,000 to publish our letter in up to 18 local papers plus the New Zealand Herald.

Will you chip in?

In case you missed it, Tusiata Avia’s book The Savage Coloniser and the adapted theatre production received $107, 280 from Creative NZ.

Taxpayers, like you and I, funded a project that fantasises about violently killing people on the basis of their skin colour.

I don’t know about you, but I am not okay with that. Join me in demanding that Meng Foon and Carmel Sepuloni take action and investigate the decision making at Creative NZ. Let’s get our letter in front of as many New Zealanders as possible!

While the book is claimed to focus on James Cook as an historical figure, the poetry explicitly references his “descendants” and other men of his ethnicity; “men like [him]”.

Here an excerpt that gives you the gist of the tone:

These days 

we’re driving round 

in SUVs

looking for ya 

or white men like you

who might be thieves 

or rapists 

or kidnappers 

or murderers 

yeah, or any of your descendants

or any of your incarnations 

cos, you know

ay, bitch? 

We’re gonna F… YOU UP.

Tonight, James,

it’s me

Lani, Danielle

and a car full of brown girls

we find you 

on the corner 

of the Justice Precinct.

You’ve got another woman 

in a headlock

and I’ve got my father’s 

pig-hunting knife 

in my fist

and we’re coming to get you

Avia’s other work includes harmful generalisations including equating the Christchurch terrorist with all of those who share his ethnic roots.

When so many New Zealanders are already fearful of increased violence in our communities, there should be zero tolerance for violent, racist rhetoric. Instead it is endorsed by the media and funded by taxpayers. 

Creative NZ has published a defence of their funding of Avia’s work on their website basically taking the position that it isn’t their job to decide what is racist or hateful. The obvious flaw with this approach is that they do have to uphold the law including the Human Rights Act which contains protections against discrimination based on ethnicity or race!

>>> Chip in to amplify the message that racism is racism no matter which race it is directed at! <<<

I’ve called on Commissioner Meng Foon to stand by his campaign ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ and to condemn the funding of this project. The Human Rights Commission has already made a statement saying they are “precluded from making any specific public comments on the issues raised while we assess and respond to these complaints and queries…”

BUT that doesn’t stop them from noting that “art, satire or discourse in whatever form, should be taken in context” and that James Cook’s “legacy is also a source of immense hurt and intergenerational trauma for many indigenous peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand”. 

I think we can all see where their “process” is going.

I have also urged Minister Carmel Sepuloni to investigate racism at Creative NZ.

Will you do your bit to get us over the line so we can put pressure on Commissioner Foon and Minister Sepuloni to take action?

Every New Zealander should be equal before the law. We are a multi-cultural nation and many New Zealanders have parents from differing ethnic backgrounds. It is reasonable to demand our Government fosters unity. It is unacceptable to feed ugly, divisive rhetoric that splits our nation into brown and white and promotes violence expecting impunity because it is labelled “art”.

Our voices are stronger together. Thank you for your continued support.

Casey Costello — Trustee, Hobson’s Pledge

Co-editor Roger Childs sent a complaint to the Stuffers directly:

Dear Ms Fenwick,

I refer to an article on your website by Michelle Duff headed ‘Tusiata Avia can’t wait to make you uncomfortable” which appeared on Sunday 19 February.  I consider this article was a clear breach of the ethical standards you espouse by attempting to incite hatred against those of European descent. Why should she be able to her read her poem without censorship when that right is denied to other people?

Tusiata Avia obviously has a pathological hatred of the British, and makes the primary example of famous seafarer Captain James Cook. In a so-called poem she makes very clear her desire to plunge a hunting knife into the ribs of his descendants and “f**k them up.”

This is the manifestation of a person who, if not a dangerous terrorist, is certainly psychologically disturbed. The explicit violence urged is endorsed by your journalist.

I expect an apology to the people of New Zealand by Ms Duff for her racist sentiments, and from you for breaching the clear statements in the Human Rights Act against inciting racial violence.

Yours sincerely 

Roger Childs

The Stuffers’ response (a cut and paste reply that has been sent to every other complainant) effectively telling him and them to Stuff off:

Dear Roger

Thanks for your email which has been forwarded to me as editor of Sunday magazines. In Sunday magazine and at Stuff we cover stories and perspectives from a wide range of New Zealanders. This particular story was a profile of award-winning poet Tusiata Avia on the occasion of her work being adapted for the stage and the Auckland Art Festival. It covered her personal story of growing up in Christchurch as a Samoan-New Zealander, the racism she faced and how she addresses New Zealand’s history of colonialism and her own experiences in her poetry and performance. The poem was printed as a demonstration of that work. The video of Avia reading the poem included content warnings so that people were aware of the nature of the content prior to viewing.

We have considered it carefully, it’s been discussed with colleagues, and we believe we have handled the content in question appropriately and in line with our code of principles and ethics. Decisions to include such content as the video, where they run counter to our usual practice, are made case by case. 

We realise that the poem is confronting and there will be those who take exception to it. We don’t see that as a reason not to feature it, given its centrality to the story about Tusiata Avia and the perspective she offers on a Pacific woman’s experiences. 

Kind regards, Frances Morton

Response to Ms Morton:

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my concerns. I feel that the poem she read had nothing to do with “a Pacific woman’s experiences”. The language was appalling and the sentiments were utterly unfounded. Promoting the poem was definitely not in line with your code of principles and ethics.

You would not have published a similar style of poem or article from a non-Pasifika or non-Maori writer.

Best wishes, Roger Childs

[This will now go to the Media Council]