Kiwibank staff accused of racism

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Otepoti pupils (from left) Matiu Morgan (6) and Maia Rakete-Gray (5), and...
Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Otepoti pupils (from left) Matiu Morgan (6) and Maia Rakete-Gray (5), and principal Amiria Stirling, are waiting to hear if Kiwibank will accept their offer of a reconciliation after an incident at one of its branches. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The actions of some New Zealand Post/Kiwibank staff have been labelled racist and insulting by the principal of a Dunedin-based Maori immersion school.

Poll: Do you think the Kiwibank staff's actions were racist?

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Otepoti principal Amiria Stirling said she was still waiting to hear whether the staff of the Green Island PostShop would accept an invitation from the Fairfield-based school to resolve the issue.

Miss Stirling said she went to the store last month to do the school's banking, but had forgotten her bank details.

Asked to provide the name of the account by the female teller, she answered "Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Otepoti".

"She just laughed. And then she got her manager and said, 'Come and listen to this'," Miss Stirling said.

She repeated "Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Otepoti" to the pair, and then a nearby cafe worker was invited by the bank staff to listen as she repeated the school's name for a third time.

To add further insult, when asked her surname to complete the transaction, she was told it "was much better" to understand, before being farewelled with "kakariki", which translates to "green", as she left the building.

Miss Stirling said she was stunned by the incident and, after consultation, decided to write letters of complaint to the bank and members of Parliament, stating, "Our school chose Kiwibank because it's a bank for everyone.

"A founding belief of our school is that all languages and cultures are precious. All languages and cultures should be uplifted and celebrated, never laughed at."

The letter finished with an open invitation for branch staff to come to the school, which has a roll of 10, and to participate in free Te Reo Maori lessons.

Asked if she thought the behaviour of the branch staff was racist, she said yes, it was "inherent racism".

Questions to the bank from the Otago Daily Times were directed to New Zealand Post Retail, as the Green Island franchisee store provides both PostShop and Kiwibank services.

New Zealand Post Retail human resources manager Pati Bloor said, "We accept the comments were inappropriate but we also recognise there was no malice or racism intended.

"It is disappointing these comments were made and caused offence and we have sought reassurance from the franchisee that such an incident will not happen again."

Company representatives had apologised to Miss Stirling, and the invitation for some staff of the Green Island branch to visit the school was likely to be accepted.

Miss Stirling said the incident would serve as a lesson for the schoolchildren on conflict resolution, and the school was likely to continue using the branch in the future.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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