Waitangi Day organiser defends decision to invite Don Brash, 'the most racist politician in the country'

A Waitangi Day event organiser says Don Brash may be dismissed by many of his whānau as "the most racist politician in the country", but the controversial former National Party leader has been invited to Te Tii marae anyway because it will be a "learning exercise". 

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Bringing the former National Party leader to Te Tii marae could spark protests, Reuben Taipari acknowledges. Source: Breakfast

This year marks 15 years since Mr Brash - then leader of the Opposition - had mud thrown at him while talking to media at Waitangi.

He said that incident was sparked by his insistence on having non-Māori media covering the event.

His speech this year at the lower marae, followed by a panel discussing his views, is also likely to spark protests, Te Tii marae forum organiser Reuben Taipari acknowledged on TVNZ1’s Breakfast today.

"A lot of my whānau and comrades in the activist movement disagree with the decision to have Don Brash, considered the most racist politician in the country," Mr Taipari said. 

But Mr Brash is one of just 40 speakers from around the world who will talk about Māori issues, he said. Also among them will be controversial Destiny Church founder Brian Tamaki. 

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

The issues on the table for discussion include climate change, education, incarceration problems, constitutional problems and indigenous rights.

"My perspective and the perspective of our kaumātua is that it is a learning exercise," he said. "The forum is about strong discussion… We want to listen and we need to understand how to solve all of our problems.

"The only way we are going to do it is if we have people with the calibre to provide the information we need. That’s why we have invited him."

He said it is about keeping the Treaty of Waitangi alive.

"It’s not just Māori to be doing this discussion," he said. "Pākehā need to be involved…understanding why the benefit of the constitution of the Treaty of Waitangi is so important to protect our rights - to protect our rights as individuals as whānau and as citizens of this country.

"This is why we want to engage with Don Brash and understand his perspectives. We are never going to do it if we don’t come together and have this discussion."

Mr Brash is the spokesperson for Hobson's Pledge, which was formed in 2016 to oppose alleged Māori favouritism and to advocate equality for New Zealanders regardless of race.

The group came under fire late last year, called "racist" and "militantly anti-Māori" in Auckland University's alumni magazine. The university later apologised for the characterisation.

"We are not racist and we are not anti-Māori," Mr Brash told RNZ at the time. "The co-spokesperson for Hobson's Pledge is herself Māori, we are in no sense anti-Māori and in no sense racist."

Last August, controversy again surrounded Mr Brash when he was banned from speaking at Massey University's Politics Society, with administrators citing security concerns. The university also referenced Mr Brash's support for far right duo Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.

But views on the former politican vary widely. He was also a nominee for the 2019 New Zealander of the Year award.