New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong apologises for te reo Māori anthem comments

11:36 am on 16 January 2019

A New Plymouth councillor who posted on social media that he was ashamed of singing the national anthem in te reo Māori has apologised.

Murry Chong

Murray Chong said he was sorry for the the comments on the national anthem in te reo. Photo: Glenn Jeffrey

Murray Chong's comments prompted a petition calling for his resignation and he was censured by the mayor.

In a statement today, Mr Chong said he was sorry for making the comments and apologised to those offended.

A second term councillor, he had replied to a Facebook post asking people to "name a song they are ashamed of singing" with "The te reo version of the national anthem".

Asked if he felt threatened by it, Mr Chong said no, but that he only wanted sing the "original version".

He went on to say if people had to sing the national anthem in both languages then the haka should be performed in English too.

In a written statement, Mr Chong said he stood by his election promise of "saying it like I see it" and wanted to encourage constructive discussion on matters important to ratepayers.

He said he wanted to make clear his views did not represent his fellow councillors or the council.

Mr Chong has previously described te reo Māori as a dying language and has been censured twice before for race-based comments.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom yesterday said he had given Mr Chong an official telling off, but would not say what the censure would mean in practice or how often a councillor could be censured before further action would be taken.

Read more about te reo Māori from RNZ:

In a statement he said Mr Chong's comments damaged the reputation of New Plymouth and incensed fellow councillors who had worked to build a more tolerant and inclusive culture in the district.

"For those who like to label Taranaki a redneck region, Cr Murray Chong's comments that he is ashamed to sing the Te Reo version of our national anthem was all the ammunition they needed. When challenged on it, implying other councillors felt the same way was despicable."

Full statement from Murray Chong:

"I wish to apologise to those offended by my comments on Facebook about the national anthem.

"I am sorry for making the comments and possible damage to the reputation of our wonderful city. I am proud to be an elected councillor and always have the best interests of New Plymouth at heart.

"I stand by my election promise of "saying it as I see it". My intention is to encourage constructive discussion on issues important to ratepayers - even when others do not feel comfortable in doing so.

"However, I accept my social media comments on unrelated topics can be unhelpful at times. My focus will be continuing to voice my opinions on important issues affecting the community.

"I also apologise to my fellow councillors. My views do not represent them or the council and I should not have referred to them.

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