Invercargill councillors weigh in on Mayor’s ‘train wreck’ interview

3:00 pm on 23 March 2024
Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark.

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark used the 'n-word' on the TV show New Zealand Today. Photo: Supplied/ODT

Invercargill councillors have not held back in their assessment of Mayor Nobby Clark's use of racially charged language, with one saying she was "absolutely disgusted".

In March 2023, Clark made headlines for his use of the 'n-word' at an Art Foundation event.

He defended himself at the time by saying he was using provocative language to "make people think".

On Thursday, the incident was revisited in an episode of satirical news show New Zealand Today, which saw host Guy Williams travel to Invercargill to speak with Clark.

An unrepentant Clark said he disliked the use of the word, while proceeding to repeat it.

Councillor Ria Bond said people should be feeling let down by the mayor's behaviour, which had left her feeling "absolutely disgusted".

"It's absolutely shocking that someone in his position as a city leader should think that he has the power to get away with calling members of society such a foul word," Bond said.

"We know in history what that word has done to people of colour, how it made them feel like they are not contributing members of society.

"He has the personality type where he thinks he's quite within his rights to do that."

Bond said Clark did not have her support.

Councillor Ian Pottinger described the interview as a "train wreck", and expected better from the mayor.

"You just don't go there, you don't go there at all. There's no way out of it. You can have your own personal views, but you keep it very private.

"It's a well known fact, you can't justify the use [of that word]."

Mana whenua representative Pania Coote said she had not seen the show, but was disappointed by the mayor's use of the 'n-word'.

Coote said she expected professionalism from someone holding the leadership position of mayor.

"It sets us back 50 years if that type of behaviour continues."

Councillor Darren Ludlow said he had fielded a couple of phone calls on Thursday night from people upset about the the show.

But he felt the mayor's television appearance was no different to how some might have felt watching previous mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt.

Ludlow said there was a "context" to Clark's original use of the word, but he personally would not have "gone down that track".

Deputy Mayor Tom Campbell said he was "surprised and disappointed" to hear the mayor repeat the words on the show.

"The first time it was in a debate about artistic licence, but this time its use was frivolous."

Others did not feel so strongly about the mayor's behaviour.

Councillor Peter Kett would not be drawn on the use of the language, saying it was a "rubbishy programme", while councillor Barry Stewart said he did not watch the programme and had no issue with the mayor.

Councillor Steve Broad said he had not watched the programme but was aware of some of the content covered.

He said he would watch it on the weekend with interest and an open mind.

Clark was contacted for comment but did not respond.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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