'No Māori language to be spoken': Shock at notice in Christchurch Airbnb

The note on the window of a Christchurch Airbnb. Photo: Supplied
The note on the window of a Christchurch Airbnb. Photo: Supplied
Shock and fear went through a guest's mind when he noticed signs at an Airbnb property in Christchurch saying Māori is not to be spoken and don't refer to the country as Aotearoa.

Ameen Makani had been chatting with the owner of the house for at least half an hour last weekend when he noticed three signs printed and pasted on each glass door in the living room.

The "Important Notice to Visitors" contained four rules, including 'No Māori to be spoken on these premises', and 'We live in NEW ZEALAND. Please don't refer to our country as 'Aotearoa'.'

Makani said he was struck by fear because the Pakeha man, aged about 70, was the most unsuspecting individual.

"He's charismatic, he's well-travelled and he's kind. You could strike up a conversation with this man and probably chat for hours," said Makini, saying he found it difficult to stay composed and contain his reaction after seeing the notices.

"I was wary that I am in someone else's home and if they can be this forthright with their perspectives, then there's no telling what else they are capable of or how they may react.

"Why does he feel ten-feet tall and bulletproof when he knows others are going to openly read what would be deemed as some seriously controversial comments?"

Ameen Makani. Photo: Supplied
Ameen Makani. Photo: Supplied
Makani said growing up as a Muslim he was taught to consider what conversations are worth engaging in and decided not to ask the host about the signs, sensing off-hand responses like "Oh don't take it so seriously, your generation is so sensitive", "Why can't we just have a little laugh about these things?" and "I'm not a racist, was just having some fun."

"What I most certainly have never seen before and never hope to again, is the absolute confidence in which this man has blatantly showcased his instructions for his guests to see.

"I made a last-minute booking on the day and he wasn't home when I checked in. So it makes you wonder how long these signs have really been up and do they ever come down?" said the Queenstown guest about the incident.

Makani also realised a simple Airbnb complaint was not going to cut it, saying the issue was bigger than a house being taken off a website.

Derek Nolan, Airbnb's Head of Public Policy for New Zealand and Australia, said discrimination is unacceptable and has no place in our community.

"We take reports of discrimination very seriously. We have provided the guest with a full refund and suspended the listing as we continue to investigate.

"We enforce a strict non-discrimination policy and under our Open Doors initiative, if a guest feels they have been discriminated against, we will provide personalised support to ensure they find a place to stay," Nolan said.

The link to the property in the Christchurch suburb of Merivale has been removed from the Airbnb website.

Makani said he wants to be careful about discussing the issue and does not wish to name and shame the host for fear of him being physically hurt or excluded from society.

"The message must be stronger and more effective with our words, not our actions.

"I do not view Aotearoa, Christchurch or those of European descent as bigots or racists. I know for a fact that our majority do not have room for such perspectives and instead are the kindest people we've ever met.

"The question now is, how do we carefully weed out the issue without hurting an entire race or culture in the process?" he said.

Attempts to contact the owner have been unsuccessful.

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