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Mayoral candidate hits back at racist claims

Margaret Murray-Benge is running for Mayor of the Western Bay of Plenty. File photo/SunLive.

A Western Bay of Plenty mayoral candidate is hitting back at claims that she doesn’t support or care for the local Maori community.

Margaret Murray-Benge says her character has been poorly represented in the media in the last couple of days.

“Words have been twisted to make it appear that I do not support nor care for our local Maori community—which could not be further away from the truth.

“This is not something I would ever want anybody to think of me—I have thick skin; I can let a lot of things go—but not this.”

Margaret’s comments follow a story recently published by Stuff with the headline “Racist undertones in submissions on prospects of land being gifted back to Tauranga iwi”.

The story quotes Margaret as saying giving 11 Mission Street, in Tauranga, to the Otamataha Trust, who represent Ngāti Tapu and Ngāi Tamarāwaho, should not occur as Māori cannot be trusted to keep their word.

The land was set aside in the 1830s by Māori for missionaries to use for the betterment of their people but it was later sold.

Tauranga City Council had planned to give the land to the Otamataha Trust which would then lease the land to heritage building society, The Elms, at a peppercorn rent of $1 per year for the next 100 years, effectively keeping the existing land user the same. Read the story in full here.

Margaret says here words have been twisted.

“I have many close relationships with local Maori and I have personally loved and lost two dear friends, Maria Ngatai and Karena Borrell. These were two women I worked with, cared for, attended their funerals, considered very dear friends and I miss them.”

She says in the context of ratepayer money and council owned properties, there will be debate about where ownership should sit and how to best manage properties for everybody in the community to enjoy.

“When I have addressed these issues in the past, and when I will need to in the future, I do so with a heart of what I feel is the best outcome for everybody involved. We are all in this together.”

-Additional reporting by Stuff.co.nz.

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