Man declined job at Air New Zealand, made to feel 's... for being Māori', for having a tā moko

A Whangārei man said he was made to feel like "s... for being Māori" after being declined a job for having a tā moko.

When applying for a job with Air New Zealand in a customer service role at Whangārei Airport, 36-year-old Sydney Heremaia told the NZ Herald he firstly had to disclose his tā moko on his left shoulder, and tatau, a Samoan form of skin art, on his right forearm.

Both were not visible while wearing a corporate shirt.

However, he was then asked to provide photos and to explain the cultural significance of them, which he did.

An Air New Zealand representative then sent him an email, viewed by the NZ Herald, that said he was being turned down for the job because "the body art you have declared does not comply with our Uniform Standards for roles wearing the Koru Uniform".

"It reflects my iwi Ngāti Whātua, and my whānau," Mr Heremaia told the publication. "My tatau reflects my Pacific heritage."

Heremaia said the whole process had made him feel "s... for being Māori".

An Air NZ spokeswoman told the NZ Herald the airline's uniform standard was well known. Uniformed customer facing staff are not permitted to have tattoos visible when wearing the uniform. 

For privacy reasons the company would not comment specifically on an individual's employment application, the spokesperson also said.