19 Mar 2021

National's Nicola Willis and Green co-leader Marama Davidson clash over 'racist' accusation

8:41 am on 19 March 2021

National MP Nicola Willis and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson have been at loggerheads over an accusation of racism and classism.

National MP Nicola Willis and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson.

National MP Nicola Willis and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ

Willis was quoted this week saying she did not feel safe in central Wellington, blaming an increase in emergency housing and larger gang presence.

Marama Davidson tweeted that people "need to be mindful of the racist and classist undertones that she [Willis] is running her 'safety' narrative on."

During Parliament's Question Time Willis confronted Davidson, who is also an Associate Housing Minister for homelessness about the tweet.

"Is she accusing New Zealanders who raise concerns about their safety in relation to increased numbers of people in emergency accommodation as being racist?"

But Davidson doubled down on her comments.

"I am accusing a National member of this House of attempting to stigmatise a group of people with little access and resourcing, of attempting to whip up stigmatising and dehumanising narratives around groups of people who need our support," she said.

Outside the House Davidson said she was concerned that any member of Parliament framed a group of people rather than focusing on solving housing.

"She absolutely has an ongoing habit of framing brown and/or poor people as the problem," she said.

Davidson said her focus was instead on providing more transitional and secure housing.

However, Nicola Willis said the cost of emergency housing had spiralled out of control, with spending now more than a million dollars per day.

She said the Associate Housing Minister's comments were disgraceful.

"I'm asking questions about an issue I think is very important to New Zealanders, it's about the safety of people living in emergency accommodation and the safety of those living nearby.

"There has been an explosion in the number of people living in motels, thousands more and I'm hearing really scary stories about the circumstances they are living in," she said.

She said Davidson's job was to be making progress, not "throwing cheap attacks at opposition MPs".

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