May 13th, 2010
10:49 AM ET

New Zealand P.M. criticized for comparing tribe to cannibals

John Key made a joke at a dinner that one Maori tribe may have made him the main course.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was facing heavy criticism Thursday after making a cannibalistic comment about a Maori tribe for the second time in a week.

Key angered the Tuhoe, a tribe of Maori, on Monday after ruling out turning over part of a national park to the tribe as part of a treaty settlement, according to a Radio New Zealand report.

On Tuesday, during a dinner meeting with another Maori tribe, the Ngati Porou, Key said he was glad he was with them instead of with the Tuhoe, who would have made him the main course. He repeated the remark as a joke during a meeting with tourism officials in Auckland on Thursday.

"The good news is that I was having dinner with Ngati Porou as opposed to their neighbouring iwi, which is Tuhoe, in which case I would have been dinner, which wouldn't have been quite so attractive," Key was quoted as saying.

Asked later about the remark, Key said he was sure the Tuhoe would get the joke, Radio New Zealand reported. The prime minister’s office characterized the remark as flippant and light-hearted, according to a New Zealand Herald report.

Key later issued an apology. "Ah look, it was a light-hearted joke, a bit of self-deprecating humour - but if anyone is offended, then I deeply apologise," Radio New Zealand quoted him as saying.

But Tuhoe chief negotiator Tamati Kruger wasn’t laughing or very forgiving.

"I'm just astounded that the prime minister can make light of what we regard as a very, very serious situation regarding ... our future relationships with the Crown. I don't think it's becoming at all of a prime minister," Radio New Zealand quoted Kruger as saying.

Kruger went further in the New Zealand Herald report.

"It gives me the sense that whatever we say or do he will never, ever take it seriously,” Kruger said in the Herald report. "He is affirming a rigidness which is not really in the spirit of good faith negotiations. He is really going to force Tuhoe into a position that makes us look like the bad guys.”

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Filed under: New Zealand
soundoff (282 Responses)
  1. Lester

    The problem with John Key is that he'd be a great guy to have around for a BBQ, but his policy decisions are nothing like his personality.

    He's a greedy millionaire cunrrecy-trader whose ambitions are based on getting more personal power and benefiting the rich.

    He also want to mine the most unspoilt places on earth.

    Come round for a BBQ? Sure, we'll play cricket and make canniibal jokes.

    Run the country? Please no, we need someone who cares about people and the environment, not just profits.

    May 14, 2010 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. jenjie

    he is sooo funny love him

    May 14, 2010 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joe Bleaux

    Is catsup permitted in NZ?

    May 14, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gene

    Someone said the joke was in "bad taste." Now *that's* funny!

    May 14, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. dodge

    I believe what the NZ Prime Minister said saying "he would have been their mean course" is the offended tribe would have berated and scolded him for what he stands for if he was with them. Americans would have said "they will chew me". Either phrases do not mean "eating".

    May 14, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Karl (Ponsonby, Auckland, NZ)

    Thankfully the Prime Minister is not some politically correct whiner and can actually make a joke at his own expense (see: “Self-deprecating Humour” as well as “method confident people can use to put others at ease”).

    How someone could spin a flippant remark into a characteristic of someone’s personality during *all* future treaty negotiations is simply ludicrous.

    Get a grip there bro', you're a thin skinned whiner (in American parlance this is similar to the direction to "Go grow a pair").

    May 14, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. D Martin

    'Every fight is a foods fight when you're a cannibal.'

    ~Demetri Martin

    May 14, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. JC

    If I remember my history correctly, both tribes were originally cannibalistic in nature. Seems to me that it took a while for the practice to die out. If I'm correct, I would suggest that the humor was "wry" instead of malicious in nature. Seems to me the states use the same sort of humor with regards to the Donner party incident. Now if I were the Tuhoe, I wouldn't have said a word. I'd have waited a week, and THEN invited him to dinner.

    May 14, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. D Martin

    'Every fight is a food fight when you're a cannibal.'

    ~Demetri Martin

    May 14, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jackie Martling

    Q: What did the cannibal do when he passed his brother in the woods?

    A: He Wiped

    May 14, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jackie Martling

    Why didn't the cannibal eat the divorced woman?

    Too bitter

    May 14, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. james

    Great factual reporting Joanna. The 80% number includes Tribal Govt. show do nothiing jobs. These Marxist equality Morons attack you personally due to lack of sound argument. If white man did not Colonise Africa NZ USA the locals would still be stuck in semi Stone age.

    May 14, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jack

    NoMercy, thankfully folks like you are a minority in the world, otherwise every flag would probably have a swastika on it.

    May 14, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. dodge

    I understand the sensitiveness of the "cannibalism jokes" to the tribes who may have cannibalistic history. I can likened this to the recent enactment of law in China outlawing the eating of dogs and cats. How do you think those dog and cat eaters feel?

    May 14, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jackie Martling

    >>How do you think those dog and cat eaters feel?


    May 14, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
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