The president of the Hawera Mt View Lions Club issued an apology this afternoon after a Christmas parade float featuring people in blackface sparked outrage around the nation.
Initially, the club vigorously defended its float that participated in yesterday’s parade.
“Let’s not be too precious or PC,” the club said on Facebook last night in a post that was later deleted.
"It's a shame we have to apologise for something we were out in the community doing that had nothing to do with racism and all the rest of it," Lions Club chair Joy Babington told Stuff earlier today, calling critics bigoted and small minded.
“We didn't have a theme this year, so we decided to go black and white, and they had face paint because they were painting kids’ faces and the rest of it, so we painted our faces,” she added.
But since then, the club has issued a statement with an apology and an admission that they “got this wrong”.
"We were naive. We are really disappointed in ourselves,” club officials said in the press release. "…We have learnt a big lesson from this and we will be more aware of these sorts of things going forward.
“Once again, our sincerest apology. We would be happy to meet with the iwi to discuss protocol.”
Former New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd told Radio New Zealand prior to the statement that he was disgusted nobody “had the presence of mind” to speak up about something that was “wrong on so many levels”.
The group’s nonchalant initial response only doubled down on the terrible situation, he said.
“Frankly, it just shows middle-class white privilege,” he said. “We view ourselves as some utopian country on race-relations whereas we’re actually just polite racists.”