Red hair among Maori questioned in controversial cartoon case

Whether Maori are likely to have red hair has come under scrutiny at a Human Rights Review Tribunal hearing this morning.

A cartoon published in The Press, commenting on the free school meals programme.

Al Nisbet’s controversial cartoon. Source: Breakfast

Manurewa MP Louisa Wall has taken a case against Fairfax Media in relation to its publication of a series of Al Nisbet cartoons last year in the Marlborough Express and Christchurch Press.

The cartoons took aim at the Government's Breakfast in Schools program. They featured obese brown characters, amongst others, taking advantage of the scheme.

Ms Wall alleges a breach of section 61 of the Human Rights Act, claiming the cartoons excited hostility against and bought into contempt Maori and Pacific people.

Ms Wall told the hearing the cartoons were "insulting" and a "put down of Maori".

Fairfax media counsel Robert Stewart asked Ms Wall if she accepted that red hair on some of the characters in the cartoons was not "automatically associated" with Maori or Pacific people.

It was part of a wider exchange about skin tone and whether Ms Wall considered cartoon characters were Maori.

Ms Wall said Maori having red hair depends on where they came from, citing Ngati Porou as one tribal grouping where red hair was not uncommon.

"Red hair is not unusual amongst Maori communities," she said.

Mr Stewart told Marae the cartoonist would not be appearing as it wasn't considered necessary.

The hearing is set down to continue until the end of the week.

More from Te Karere this afternoon.