New Zealand's premier offends Maori tribe by cracking cannibal joke

The Prime Minister of New Zealand apologised yesterday for joking that he would have been part of the meal had he attended a dinner with a Maori tribe whose history includes cannibalism.

John Key's quip further soured relations that were already strained over the Tuhoe people's attempt to win back ownership of tribal lands confiscated by a settler government 150 years ago.

The Tuhoe have accused Mr Key of betraying an earlier agreement with the government for the return of their sacred Te Urewera lands on New Zealand's North Island.

The premier was addressing a tourism conference when he made a reference to the dispute and having a meal with leaders of a tribe – known as an iwi – who are the Tuhoe's neighbours.

"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," Mr Key said.

Te Ururoa Flavell, a Maori lawmaker, said the joke was unfortunate and would add to the Tuhoe's sense of injustice. "Well, the first thing to say is [that] it is probably correct, and the second thing is – probably not wise in the current climate," he told National Radio.

Before European settlement, Maori tribes regularly raided other tribal groups, seizing some as slaves and indulging in cannibal feasts to sow fear among their enemies. Scholars believe the practice ended 200 years ago.

Tamati Kruger, the chief Tuhoe negotiator, said the joke was "in poor taste", was unbecoming of a prime minister and that relations with Mr Key were getting worse by the day.

Mr Key later expressed regret, saying: "It was a light-hearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humour. But if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss