Watch: 'Exceptionally bad form' - Bill English slammed for talking through Maori kids' haka at netball game

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Prime Minister Bill English is being accused of disrespecting a group of Maori school children who performed at a netball game he was at by talking through their performance and not applauding them when they finished.

Video filmed at the ANZ Premiership Pulse vs Steel game at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena, last Wednesday, shows Mr English sitting in the VIP area while a group from Te Kura Maori o Porirua performed Te Rauparaha's 'Ka Mate' haka during a half-time show.

Attendees said it seemed the performance was directed towards Mr English, as his presence had been announced more than once and the group had set up facing towards him, as opposed to facing the majority of the audience in the main seating areas.

The teams were in their changing rooms at the time.

In the video, Mr English appears to give no kind of recognition as the kids perform, instead chatting with his companion, and also does not appear to clap at the conclusion of the performance.

Witness Sharna-Lee Haimona told 1 NEWS it was "poor form".

Regardless of whether or not these young people were performing for him - they were performing"
Sharna-Lee Haimona

"It was just shocking that he wasn't paying any attention," Ms Haimona said.

"This group got up and performed for him and he just didn't bother.

"It would have just been an ideal opportunity for him to really put that biculturalism and that respect into practice.

"Regardless of whether or not these young people were performing for him - they were performing - and I just think it would have been a lot more respectful had he taken a moment to watch them - or even just clap at the end".

Te Kura Maori o Porirua principal Sophie Tukukino said the group was not invited specifically to perform for the Prime Minister, or even told he would be there, but teachers at the event were asked by event organisers to face that end of the hall while performing.

"The performance was at the invite for the netball - it wasn't specifically for the Prime Minister," Ms Tukukino said.

"We don't view it as being an issue for us ... whoever took the video and their opinion on what happened in that video is separate to the kura [school]."

ONLINE VIEWERS SAY PM SHOWED DISRESPECT

The video has been widely shared online and has now been viewed about 42,000 times, with many commenting they thought the Prime Minister's conduct was rude.

"I personally would like to think that the Prime Minister would be able show the kids manaakitanga and give them his complete and utter attention for what ...7 maybe 10 minutes, whether it was specifically for him or not? Whenever the prime minister is out in public while in office its a 'political occasion'... thats what he signed up for and gets paid to do...its exceptionally bad form on his behalf," one wrote.

"He's the PM, they are tamariki, whether or not he knew it was for him, there was a performance happening, he didn't even stop talking to join in the applause at the end. I think to raise awareness of how our PM is behaving towards a performance by children is uplifting for all tamariki ... they live in a country with a political system that has oppressed maori for way too long, so imo these sorts of behaviours being exposed is uplifting. No longer is it okay to ignore tamariki Māori," said another.

Another commenter affirmed that it would have been hard for the Prime Minister not to realise the kids were performing for him.

"It was stated on more than one occasion that he was the guest of honour ... the children turned to face him even though majority of the crowd was to either side of them and they were looking to him (performing)."

PM 'HAS A DEEP UNDERSTANDING AND RESPECT FOR MAORI'

Bill English speaks to media.

Source: 1 NEWS

Responding to this story, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said this afternoon that the video was not an accurate representation of his time at the game, adding that he spent "quite some time speaking with junior players and school children afterwards".

"The Prime Minister did watch the performance, which he enjoyed," the spokesperson said.

"He divided his time between watching the performance and talking to the host.

"Prime Minister English has a deep understanding and respect for Maori culture."

The spokesperson told 1 NEWS Mr English thought he had clapped after the kids' performance.

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