Group of Auckland councillors condemn 'sieg heil' comment by mayoral candidate, John Tamihere

The mayor and deputy mayor of Auckland, along with four other councillors have condemned the use of the Nazi slogan, "sieg heil" by mayoral candidate John Tamihere during a pub debate last night.

In response to Phil Goff talking about the diversity of Auckland and the upcoming birth of his grandchild, Mr Tamihere said “Well, I say sieg heil to that".

Mr Tamihere has not responded to 1 NEWS’ request for comment today but told NZ Herald what he meant by the use of the words "sieg heil" was that he was calling Mr Goff a "dictator" for not allowing a pair of Canadian far-right speakers to speak at council venues.

Phil Goff, current Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore, and councillors Chris Darby, Richard Hills, Josephine Bartley and Penny Hulse today condemned Mr Tamihere’s use of the Nazi slogan.

“This type of rhetoric shows the measure of a man. This isn’t the type of language that you use in a debate or anywhere else. There is no excuse for it. We don’t need this type of politics in our city," deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore said.

“Absolutely disgusting that he wants to lead our awesome city. He and the candidates supporting him need to think about this hateful direction they’re taking this election and our city. We all deserve much better," Cr Richard Hills said.

Cr Chris Darby said it was an insulting comment.

“The use of the Nazi salute sieg heil espouses the most despicable hatred of people. With part of my family having German heritage, we know only too well the ugliness of hatred. While not a criminal act in New Zealand, as it is in Germany, anyone using the salute is inciting hatred, something Aucklanders should make no room for.”

Cr Josephine Bartley said it was a disrespectful shock tactic.

“You can’t take back something once you say it. There is no understandable reason to use Nazi language in a conversation about a mixed-race grandchild. Although his intention may have been to belittle the speaker, his words would have hurt many who know about and may have connections with the atrocity. The people Mr Tamihere purports to represent deserve better than shock factor disrespectful one-liners. Do better please!"

However, mayor Phil Goff said he was not surprised by the comment.

"These comments are unacceptable for someone who wants to be Mayor of this city. I am proud of how multicultural our city is and more importantly, I am proud of how we embrace our diversity. This is not the first time Mr Tamihere’s comments have gotten him in trouble and I don’t think it will be the last.”

The Holocaust Centre of New Zealand also condemned Mr Tamihere's use of the phrase.

“Mr Tamihere uses Nazi language - the language of race hatred - in a throwaway manner. It is wrong, deeply irresponsible and inciting hate in one of the world’s most ethnically diverse cities. It is utterly unacceptable for a public figure to evoke Hitler and the Nazis as Mr Tamihere is doing,” said Chief Executive Officer, Chris Harris.

Mr Tamihere said the comment was made in the context of a "heated debate".

"You've got to be very careful about having Phil Goff as a chief censor on how people can think, what they can say, where they can say it and all of it. That was the context of the issue of the banning of those Canadians coming to speak in Auckland," he told NZ Herald.

"I think Aucklanders and Kiwis are grown up enough to determine who they can listen to and why and that we would as New Zealanders give them the opprobrium they justly deserve, but here's the thing. Who determines whether you can think something, speak something and engage in something and who says that it's hate speech?" he said. 

The Daily Blog Pub Politics initiative was in its third series of debates last night at Auckland's Chapel Bar, when the incident happened.

There are 21 mayoral candidates vying for the position, with voting opening on 20 September and closing on October 12.