Māori Santa recounts 'shocked look on the faces of' Pakeha during Nelson parade

The man known as the Māori Santa Claus from Nelson says the backlash over his version of Santa has been "draining" on himself and his family.

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When Rob Herewini agreed to be Nelson’s Polynesian inspired Santa he wasn’t aware how much backlash he would receive. Source: Marae

Rob Herewini agreed to take part in Nelson’s 2018 Santa parade as the Polynesian inspired Santa but had no idea he would become a target of a tirade of online abuse.

"Some of those comments are pretty shocking," Mr Herewini told TVNZ1 show Marae.

"It's been pretty tough with all the comments and stuff that have been said on Facebook … it’s been quite draining, and it's had an effect on my family."

The interview which aired yesterday morning was the first time Mr Herewini has spoken since he made headlines for wearing a korowai in a sleigh.

"I didn't have any hidden agendas, I was just happy to represent our culture. It's all about bi-culturalism that Santa parade," he says.

The choice of Santa divided the town of Nelson with many taking to social media to air their disappointment.

Mr Herewini, who volunteers with special needs children and works as a helper at Victory Primary School in Nelson, says he could see the disappointment on the faces of the crowd as he made his way down the parade.

"As we were travelling down the street you could see the shocked look on the faces of people and a lot of those people were Pākehā people.

"You know, people were giving me the thumbs down, booing me."

Nothing prepared Mr Herewini for what came the week following the parade when he became the centre of a national discussion.

"I think a lot of people did not like that. The fact that here was a Santa who didn’t have a hat and a beard or a red suit at a Santa parade."

Mr Herewini says he dressed in a korowai for the children.

"When I went down the parade on that float and saw the Māori people there cheering me that’s what made me feel good inside."

Watch the full interview above.