Car salesmen stood down over racist message

Narelle Newdick was the subject of racist comments on a voicemail message. Photo: NZ Herald
Narelle Newdick was the subject of racist comments on a voicemail message. Photo: NZ Herald
Two car salesmen have been stood down after accidentally leaving a racist message on a woman's phone.

The Farmers Auto Village employees are going through a disciplinary process after they left racist comments on the voicemail system of potential customer Narelle Newdick.

The comments were publicised this week and sparked outrage among the Tauranga community.

"Your little Maori girl … it keeps going to voicemail," two dealers can be heard saying.

"Tell her don't be a f***** clever Maori.

"Go back to Maketu and dig pipis out of the sand."

Farmer Auto Village group managing director Mike Farmer told the Bay of Plenty Times on Tuesday the comments from the two "ignorant" salesmen were not reflective of the wider company and his concerns were for Newdick and her family.

"We've built this business over 27 years and we've done a lot for the community in Tauranga. To have this occur in the company is devastating. We will be making some very firm action to make sure this never, ever happens again."

Farmer said in his opinion, "those two individuals have brought the whole company into disrepute''.

"I would certainly hope that out of this terrible situation that the lessons learned will never be lost on this company in the future."

Newdick told the Bay of Plenty Times on Tuesday that she was reluctant to be in the spotlight but it was "something I knew had to be highlighted".

"It was one of those things where 'I can't just delete this'. I just can't let this slide. I thought if I ring them, I'll just get an apology and I just don't think that's good enough. I wanted to stand up and say 'this isn't okay'.

"There's nothing casual about racism when you are on the receiving end of it."

Newdick said community support had been overwhelming. She received a personal apology from Farmer the day after he learned of the recording last week.

"When the message was played to him, that was when the boss realised the severity of the comments. I think the apology from Mike was genuine."

Newdick said she also received a phone call from the salesman she had dealt with but in her opinion it felt ''very insincere and that he was made to ring".

She was heartened at Farmer's suggestions of increasing cultural awareness "but unless you have an open heart and open mind to what is going to be offered to you ... it comes down to the integrity of the men who left that message and what they take away from it".

Employment lawyer Warwick Reid said although the details of any disciplinary process would be private, Farmer Auto Village could have sufficient grounds to fire the staff involved if they were found to have brought the company into disrepute.

"That could argue there has been misconduct or serious misconduct, and it is open to an employer to take disciplinary action."

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