Key apologises over Tuhoe menu joke

BY JOHN HARTEVELT AND VERNON SMALL
Last updated 16:25 13/05/2010
TVNZ

Prime Minister John Key has upset Tuhoe by making a joke that suggests they are cannibals.

John Key
JOHN KEY: 'The good news was that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been the dinner.'

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Prime Minister John Key has apologised over a joke which has been interpreted by some as linking Tuhoe with cannibalism.

Mr Key this morning sparked a frenzy of outrage when he opened a speech joking that if he had a meal with Tuhoe he would have been on the menu - taken by some to be a suggestion members of the iwi were cannibals.

Mr Key said he thought Tuhoe would get the joke, but it appears they were not amused.

Mr Key this afternoon told reporters he was sorry for any offence caused.

"Ahh look, it was a light-hearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humour, but if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise."

The joke came at the start of a speech announcing the Government's Budget tourism package. Mr Key said he had earlier had dinner with Ngati Porou representatives.

"As I said, the good news was that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been the dinner," he said to the audience of about 200 from the tourism sector.

Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell, whose Waiariki electorate includes Tuhoe's tribal area, told Radio NZ the joke was unfortunate and would add to the iwi's wounds.

Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger said the joke was not funny, in poor taste and unbecoming of a prime minister. Relations with Mr Key were getting worse by the day, he said.

The fresh controversy tops off a bad week for Mr Key's relations with Maori.

On Sunday he pulled the plug on a planned settlement with Tuhoe that would have seen them given sole ownership of the Te Urewera National Park.

Maori party co-leader Tariana Turia criticised Mr Key for canning the settlement with Tuhoe. She was also upset that Mr Key had said she had been "totally fine" over the issue when she was not.

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