Butcher attacks 'redneck' Rotarians after meeting

Fliss Butcher.
Fliss Butcher.
Oamaru Rotarians have been labelled ''rednecks'' and ''like a meeting of the clan'' by Waitaki mayoral and council candidate Fliss Butcher and her husband, Ian.

The outburst followed a candidates' meeting last week, organised by the Rotary Club of Waitaki, when Mrs Butcher was refused extra time to introduce herself after she used most of her allocated one minute to deliver a mihi (greeting or welcome) in Maori.

After the mihi, Mrs Butcher said she was made to feel unwelcome and had been discriminated against, making reference to her ties to Ngai Tahu.

That prompted her to say on Twitter later that night: ''Horrible meeting tonight with oamaru Rotarians ... discriminated against ... made to feel stupid 4 asking for my time to start after doing mihi.''

- followed by: ''Lots rednecks in the room ... could have been the heating ... Yeah nah''.

Then she quoted her husband: ''@iba52 says it was like a meeting of the clan''.

In other tweets Mrs Butcher said she had made a formal complaint to Race Relations and: ''I'll take Rotary to task for discrimination.''

They were retweeted on the Oamaru Youth Market site.

When contacted yesterday, Mrs Butcher said she would not file a complaint until after the election because she did not want it to end up as ''an election stunt'', but vowed she would pursue it. She was still ''pretty disappointed'' by what had happened.

''We have the Treaty of Waitangi and if I want to speak in Maori to ground myself and feel better before making my introduction, I am entitled to do so, as the other candidates are.''

Last Wednesday's public meeting was for Oamaru and Corriedale ward candidates for the Waitaki District Council.

Yesterday, chairman and meeting adjudicator John Walker said after candidates started speaking for their minute, Mrs Butcher passed him a note asking for extra time so she could speak in Maori.

''After careful consideration, including equality for all candidates and especially those who had already spoken, I decided against it and wrote back to say she could use her minute as she wished,'' he said.

Mr Walker had adjudicated at previous candidate meetings and said he always ensured candidates stuck to the rules and had equal time and opportunity.

Rotary Club president Paul Mortimer said candidates were told the rules when they were invited to attend, including the one minute to introduce themselves. That was followed up with an email and repeated before Wednesday night's meeting began.

''It was her decision how she used her minute and she chose to speak in Maori for most of that time, but then wanted longer than other candidates,'' he said.

Mrs Butcher acknowledged it was ''probably my fault'' she had not raised the extra time before the meeting, but said she was granted extra time during a Waitaki mayoral forum.

Despite that, she still found the whole situation ''culturally offensive''.