National | Auckland

Coffey speaks out about Auckland Council posters

An advertisement which has been described as 'casual racism' by a Labour MP has been removed from a public pool in Mangere. The advert features a fair-skinned girl telling a brown-skinned boy to make sure he visits the toilet before swimming.

The Auckland Council says this advert was created in response to potential public health issues, but it doesn't sit well with Labour MP Tamati Coffey.

The council says the characters Hemi and Molly are used across its marketing materials and were designed to appeal to young Aucklanders and reflect the city's diverse population.

Coffey says, "I think of all of those other little brown kids that are there at the pools who may be being unfairly targeted by this little bit of this casual racist profiling of the little brown kid that goes to the toilet in the pools.

"There were a few things that I didn't like in there, namely the fact that they've used this little boy called Hemi, who's wearing his pounamu, he's a little brown kid and there's this little fair skinned girl that's telling him what to do."

In a written statement from Mace Ward, Auckland Council's General Manager Parks Sports and Recreation, says, "We'd like to apologise for any offence it may have caused.  We're removing our signs from our leisure centres and will take a look at the whole campaign."

Meanwhile there are mixed views from the public:

"I don't have a problem with it, the main thing is the message that is being portrayed by the children in the picture," said one respondent.

"I couldn't understand why they had to make it a Māori boy called Hemi.  I just seen the photo last night and both my partner and I were thinking 'why did it have to be a Māori boy?,'" said another.

"I actually quite like it, I wouldn't think twice about that being racial or anything- I think it's quite cool."

"A question would be would it have been ok if the children swapped roles?  I'm not sure."

The council says as a result of the campaign they've had fewer pool shutdowns and less risk to human health.