Mayor: 'Leave Dunedin out of your racist dog whistle'

Hamish Walker
Hamish Walker
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins has joined Housing Minister Megan Woods in accusing Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker of racism.

Dr Woods rounded on the National MP after he raised questions after the Government announcement yesterday that it was studying the feasibility of Dunedin and Queenstown being used as managed isolation centres for New Zealanders returning from overseas.

Mr Walker said the South could expect up to 11,000 people to undergo managed isolated in the region should the proposal go ahead.

“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.

"I’ve already had many calls, texts and emails from residents who do not want people in quarantine in Queenstown.”

Dr Woods said Mr Walker’s comments were "disgraceful and reprehensible".

"They are also misleading," she said. "He is scaremongering and is, frankly, being racist.

"The returning New Zealanders he is trying to whip up a public frenzy about are citizens and permanent residents who must stay somewhere safe to ensure that Covid-19 is not spread in the community."

Mr Walker said it was his understanding the countries he had listed were where the returning New Zealanders would be coming from, and that was made as a statement of fact, with no connotation involved.

Dr Woods stressed no decisions had been made.

"We are starting to consult with the community. Mr Walker needs to take a breath and wait for the facts, and reflect on the sentiment he is so clearly trying to ignite.”

Dr Woods intends to travel to the region next week to discuss the proposal with civic leaders and health officials.

Mr Hawkins last night on social media joined Dr Woods in calling Mr Walker's comments racist.

"Hey Hamish Walker MP for Clutha-Southland: how about you leave Dunedin out of your racist dog whistle eh?"

This morning he told RNZs Morning Report  the 11,000 figure did not match what he had been told.

"I'm not sure where Mr Walker gets his sources from, one only hopes it isn't the same place where Michael Woodhouse gets his from.

"At this stage, all we have been told is that the existing locations for managed isolation and quarantine will be insufficient to meet the number of New Zealanders returning to the country. I was briefed by Minister Woods' office yesterday that they were looking at places like Dunedin and Queenstown but that they would not be making any decisions until the minister was satisfied that the infrastructure was in place ... to keep those people safe and the wider community safe."

Asked if he was concerned about Walker's comments, Hawkins said: "Well, people can draw their own conclusions as to why Mr Walker chose not to highlight New Zealanders returning from the US, or the UK or South Africa and chose India, Pakistan and Korea instead. I'm not particularly concerned about where the point of origin is for our New Zealanders returning home. That should not be relevant.

"I think they were unhelpful. It's one of better dog whistles I've heard this campaign season ... nothing in a campaign letter is done by accident."

Hawkins said conversations about the managed isolation and quarantine process could be held "without getting into an unhelpful conversation about where our citizens might be returning from".

One southern health worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said health centres had already been contacted by hospital management and asked if they could deal with up to 11,000 people in managed isolation.

"It sounds like quite a high number, but we have been told that this is happening," the health worker said.

"I don’t think we are kitted out, in terms of personal protective equipment and so on, for 11,000 people, even if it is over the next three weeks or so."

The health worker listed the same countries as Mr Walker did, as those from which the New Zealanders were returning.

Earlier yesterday Mayor Hawkins said the city was ready to play its part.

“Covid-19 is not somebody else’s fight," he said.

"These are our citizens trying to get home and we as a city need to do our bit to help."

Mr Hawkins said he had been reassured by officials that no decisions about Dunedin hosting people in managed isolation would be made until they were confident quarantines could be carried out safely.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said it was important that, having stamped out Covid-19 in the region, communities not be put at risk.

"The Queenstown Lakes district has extremely limited healthcare capacity in the event that there should be a localised outbreak beyond any quarantine facility, and this should be a significant concern," he said.

"This real concern is something that should be taken into consideration before any final decision is made and I would recommend discussions should be had with both this council and the Southern District Health Board to further inform that decision.”

Mr Walker said the region needed appropriate safeguards in place before people went through managed isolation in the South.

"With the Government’s track record, that has not been sufficient to date," he said.

“The Government needs to reassure the community there are proper safety and security protocols in place before these people arrive.”

With RNZ

Comments

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Everything is racist or sexist or homophobic when you dont agree with the narrative of the intolerant left. Just ask Don Brash who has never said a racist word in public, unless one considers "one rule or law for everyone" or "all people are equals" is racist.

Don't leave all your cards on the table!

Aaron, try and run the City please, leave the name calling to the big boys

Why do I feel embarrassed that I come from Dunedin every time our new Mayor says something publicly? The only people here that are racist are the accusers that use the R word. Mr Walker’s concern for his people is a public health issue not where they are from.

Maybe you need to read Mr Walker's letter, he is clearly concerned about where New Zealanders are coming home from.

So maybe specific countries where named in the context of their severity of COVID-19 impact and hence risk for public health? Mayor shouldn't be hysterical but stand for those who hired him (ie people of Dunedin), because frankly proposal just doesn't make much sense: dispersing potentially contagious people all over the country increases risk of multiple virus outbreaks and that can just get out of control very quickly.

What a twonk to play the race card on this situation. How long until the next election?

Look at the Dunedin economy. This is his recovery plan. As things continue to close this is a way to get jobs here. It wouldn't bother me if anybody other than Hawkins was in charge. He is out of his depth so we know failure is inevitable. Yep, he and his ilk use racism, sexism, homophobia and anything else as a means to shame people to bend to his will. It only works if you allow the left to do it. Lefties like him are the worst at using this tactic. Go look at the COVID map and see if the comments are racist. We had zero cases in Dunedin. The people have a say about their right to safety without being labeled as racist. The border is closed to everyone except new zealanders so racism isn't a factor. Is Hawkins labeling the government racist for denying people from terrorist countries racist? No, there is no political value in it. However, there is in this issue. People aren't going to vote for the dunce if they are unemployed. He thinks he can claw his way higher in politics. Look at his record, he literally has zero job experience. His performance as mayor has been unremarkable. He is a zero. Can't wait to vote these losers out!

Could we not brings dogs into this story what have they ever done? Mind you given all the dog poo that liters our footpaths in Dunedin it appears the council consider this to ge acceptable while continuing to artificially inflate house prices to collect higher rates to provide less service than prior

It is hawkins that is engaging in "dog whistle" politics, seems he is trying to make out that he is an expert in politics whereas he is just a radio jock. I suggest he leave the politics to the big boys.

I agree. Go back to drinking your soy milk Aaron. You know he wasn't being racist. However, I wish Hamish had just added United States so I didn't have to hear once again why I'm a racist white man, albeit jewish without a tan. These are all very big person complex issues, that aren't solved by shouting "racist" at someone you don't agree with ALL THE TIME. Grow up.

Mayor Hawkins is an embarrassment. What happened to our elected officials being able to conduct themselves in an honourable fashion?

Or is he just pandering to the whining apologists who we seem to have been overrun by.

I too am concerned about people coming from countries where Covid is rife given the absolute shambles of a government we seem to be lumbered with.
I fail to see what race, creed or colour has to do with anything.

If as 1 health worker said hospital management have already contacted Health Centres then sounds like a done deal. Agreed everything is racist ,sexist homophobic and everyone seems to be looking for offense at something. Don Brash got closed down for a view many people hold.
Hey.... Arron Hawkins mayor of Dunedin how about you listen to the rate payers of Dunedin instead of pushing your vision of what you want eh.

In addition to setting the speed limit of our main street to that of a bicycle, we now see that everyone who expresses an opinion at odds with the Mayors radical left narrative is going to be framed as Far Right and accused of a panoply of -ism's and -phobias.

Aaron, please stop being puerile. Hamish Walker is one of the few politicians who actually takes action on behalf of his constituents and his past actions show that he is no racist. His comments are on a public health concern and yes, he could have included other countries that have high Covid19 rates, but that would make an excessive list. You show a complete ineptitude for your position, nearly every time you make a statement.

Ahhh the wisdom of the crowd has spoken. Now that you've gotten your indignation out of your system, how aboutsharing with the room ideas on how to safely deal with quarantining of returning New Zealanders? Nope? Too hard? Ahhh well...

Speak for yourself Mr Hawkins.

If Hamish Walker does not wish to be portrayed as racist maybe he will need to be more careful about what he says. "These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea," he said.

Radio interviewer: "There are high rates from the likes of the United States, United Kingdom, why single out those three particular countries?"

Walker: "I'm not singling out those three countries at all." It is there for all to see and hear.

Active cases have come from India, Australia and the USA. It seems there is more chance of cases coming from the latter two than Pakistan and Korea.

It is a shame the mayor can neither run the city or read. Walker was informed where the travellers were coming from; simple fact. Given the government's failure over quarantining returners it is hardly surprising that he quite rightly raised the issue (as did the mayor of Queenstown). Stating where someone comes from is hardly racist, it would be silly to claim that that. Oh dear, that fits Hawkins and Wood.

Mayor Hawkins should be embarrassed?

Having heard Mr Walker and the Mayor of Dunedin being interviewed there is only one to be embarrassed about and it isn't the one with chains of office.

Naturally communities should be consulted about things affecting them. Should there be a referendum of residents of Queenstown about quarantine in their area?

How would that look?
1. We would welcome those in quarantine to be based in Queenstown. Yes / no
2. We would welcome those in quarantine to be based in Queenstown but not if they're from India Pakistan or Korea. Yes / no
3. We are happy for people to be quarantined anywhere in NZ except Queenstown. Once people know they're well we'd welcome them here with their money. Yes / no

These baseless accusations of racism seem to occur far too frequently. Walkers words were not “disgraceful and reprehensible” as the Mayor suggests. There is nothing racist in such talk, any more than if he named Brazil, Canada or Norway as the sources of recent Covid infections. (if they happened to be among the countries concerned). Those recent infections and the countries they had flown in from are public knowledge that has already been reported across NZ media. Walker was not highlighting ethnicity, simply the countries themselves. You can view NZ Covid infections by ethnicity for general interest from our own NZ Ministry of Health Covid 19 website, (data important for statistical and tracing purposes). If he wanted to compile a more complete list, he could have included the following: Peru, Britain, Kenya, Sydney, Nepal…also countries people flew in from who have now tested positive. There are now 18 confirmed cases of infection, all recent arrivals. So, regardless of the countries he named, the primary concern is making sure any new cases from repatriation flights into NZ are acknowledged and handled appropriately by the govt.

Hamish only appears to be saying what people in his electorate are thinking. Mayors who dont live in his electorate should continue to worry about blue dots on George St.

Last I checked, it was Kiwis coming back from US, UK, and Oz doing all the Covid spreading while refusing to be tested and pay their way through isolation.

The issue here is surely nothing to do with race, it’s the ability for our Otago DHB to cope with the strain of hospital admissions requiring strict quarantine measures and firstly whether they are up to it then secondly will local citizens still have full access to services as a result. For Mayor Hawkins to role out the welcome mat prior to lengthy consultation with the DHB is pure arrogance. Hawkins can wave the racist ticket all he likes, we aren’t listening. Zip it, lock it and put it in your pocket.

Is your Dunedin mayor making a racist accusation (Anti Kiwi farmer race)that people in Southland electorate are dumb farmers who do dog whistles.
That’s disgraceful discrimination !! I think I’ll vote for Hamish now

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