Urban Māori should be encouraged to learn about culture, not criticised, says Melodie Robinson

Broadcaster and TVNZ media executive Melodie Robinson has weighed in on Labour MP Willie Jackson's alleged "racist taunt" against Paula Bennett, in which he was accused of labelling her "not Māori enough".

Ms Bennett accused Mr Jackson after he spoke in the house last week about the perceived short-fallings of Māori MPs within the National Party.

"Paula Bennett, she doesn't know if she's a Māori, some days she does and some days she doesn't," he said.

Ms Bennett reacted by accusing him of racism and said it amounted to calling her "not Māori enough".

Speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme this morning, Ms Robinson said Māori should be encouraged to find their culture - not intimidated away from it.

"We know what Willie Jackson is like - he's a funny, sarcastic personality that just goes for the jugular - however in this case I think Māori have to view this differently," Ms Robinson said.

"Being an urban Māori and growing up in Christchurch myself, I wasn't immersed in tikanga [customs] or Te Reo Māori, so I had to relearn quite a bit of that at university.

"For someone like Paula as well, in fact all of those urban Māori that are in New Zealand - we were disconnected with our culture.

"We need to be encouraged to come, not insulted for the fact that we don't come to the marae very often.

"It is so intimidating to go to a marae, to a powhiri, because you stuff up all the time - I've been told off for eating an apple before the pōwhiri finished properly and then I feel intimidated to go back to my marae for another year.

"So, it's scary - welcome people, don't tell them they're not Māori enough."

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The broadcaster says she herself had to independently learn her own culture, and found it intimidating at times. Source: Breakfast

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