Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere responded to incumbent Phil Goff with Nazi phrase "sieg heil" at a debate last night after Mr Goff called for Auckland to be an inclusive and diverse city.
The Daily Blog Pub Politics initiative was in its third series of debates last night at Auckland's Chapel Bar, when the two candidates were asked by host Martyn Bradbury, "What do you wish for the grandchildren of Auckland?"
Mr Goff responded first, saying he wanted the grandchildren of Auckland to grow up in a great city to live in - "an exciting, vibrant city, an inclusive city, a diverse city".
When asked the same question, Mr Tamihere responded, “Well, I say sieg heil to that.”
“What do you mean by that?” Mr Goff responded, adding he thought that the comment was “weird”.
Declining to clarify his comment, Mr Tamihere instead said Mr Goff’s speech was delivered “so boringly”.
“We all want a better Auckland,” Mr Tamihere said.
“To suggest that his gilded lily is working is just not true. This city is in some significant difficulties and needs some significant leadership to lead it out of it.
“It’s not as rosy - in his part of town it might be, in my part of town it’s not,” Mr Tamihere added.
Mr Goff said today via Twitter that Mr Tamihere's comments were "unacceptable".
"I stand for an inclusive city that celebrates its diversity. The comment made last night was unacceptable from anyone - especially from someone wishing to lead one of the most diverse cities in the world," Mr Goff said.
Mr Tamihere has not responded to 1 NEWS’ request for comment today. He told the New Zealand Herald what he meant by the use of the words "sieg heil" was that he was calling Mr Goff a "dictator".
"You go through the whole debate, it's in the context of a heated debate," he said. You 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.
"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?"
Far-right Canadian speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were due to speak in Auckland last year but were banned by Auckland Council from speaking at council venues, a decision supported by Mr Goff.
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.
There are 21 mayoral candidates vying for the position, with voting opening on 20 September and closing on 12 October.