Councillor 'contrite' after smoking sterilisation idea

JANINE RANKIN AND SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 06/04/2013
Bruce
PNCC
Cr Bruce Wilson

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A Palmerston North city councillor is "as contrite as can possibly be" after coming under fire for comments suggesting that Maori women should be sterilised to stop them smoking in front of their children.

Councillor Bruce Wilson made the comments at a community meeting this week about a proposed smokefree policy covering the central city.

He said that, if the aim was to stop adults role-modelling smoking behaviour, and given that 41 per cent of Maori women smoked, perhaps they should be sterilised.

The comment drew a shocked response from other councillors, and he quickly said he was not advocating the idea.

He also said it was not something he would say to the media, but his comment was heard by a reporter who was in the public gallery.

Yesterday, Mr Wilson said he realised the "monumental stuff-up" he had made "the moment the words escaped my lips".

"I can't take them back and I did as people do a few times in their lives and wish you could magic the words away, but I can't."

He had contacted his fellow councillors, the mayor and the chief executive to apologise, as well as contacting others who were at the meeting.

"I'm hugely unimpressed with myself. I'm unbelieving at my ineptness."

He would make a formal public apology at a council meeting, he said.

Maori Party co-leader and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the comments were "absolutely appalling", and the media had a responsibility to report them.

Mrs Turia said tobacco was a seriously addictive substance, and she would not stand in judgment of people who were exposed to smoking before its appalling effects were understood.

City mayor Jono Naylor said Mr Wilson should apologise and formally retract the comments at the next council meeting.

Mr Naylor said he was surprised and disappointed, and thought the comment uncharacteristic. "If it was an attempt at humour, it was a poor attempt."

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- Waikato Times

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