22 Nov 2018

Mayor voted for blackface float: 'I stuffed up'

8:07 pm on 22 November 2018

The mayor of South Taranaki has no plans to resign after it was revealed he was on a judging panel that awarded second prize to a float in an A&P parade featuring people in blackface.

A Lions Club Christmas parade float featuring adults and children in black face, Hawera, 2018.

The Lions Club Christmas parade float featured adults and children in black face. Photo: Supplied

The Lions Club float featuring adults and children in blackface and sparked outrage in the town of Hawera and beyond at the weekend.

Mayor Ross Dunlop said he was asked to be a judge at short notice and admitted he "wasn't paying much attention".

"I just saw Hawera Lions and, knowing all of the good work they do, thought they should be acknowledged. I got that wrong."

Mr Dunlop said he had "zero tolerance" for racism.

"It was a case of not being attentive enough and I stuffed up.

"I have no plans to resign. I'm very proud of our community and believe my track record of inclusiveness and bringing people together speaks for itself."

The iwi leader who drew attention to the use of blackface on a float in the Hawera parade said the mayor should not have to resign.

Ngati Ruanui leader Debbie Ngarewa Packer said it was disappointing to find that Mr Dunlop was involved, but it was not a sacking offence.

Ms Ngarewa Packer said the mayor could play an important role in educating people as to why the float was wrong.

She said she knew Mr Dunlop well and was aware of the good work he had done in the community.

The Human Rights Commission has reiterated its view that blackface was offensive, and perpetuated the stereotypes that underpinned racism.

Mr Dunlop said he understood why blackface was wrong.

"It's tied up with the Black and White Minstrels and well known that it has been a long time that it has been unacceptable.

"If the Black and White Minstrels had been standing on that platform, I would've immediately recognised that as being unacceptable."

Mr Dunlop said he had been talking to Ms Ngarewa-Packer about making his blunder a learning experience for everyone.

"I'm certainly happy to do anything that is helpful to bring the community together.

"I have got some ideas but it is pretty early days."

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