Princess Cruises has apologised after footage emerged of several non-Māori employees performing a pōwhiri at the Port of Tauranga in New Zealand.
The photos, which emerged earlier this week on social media, show guests from the Golden Princess cruise ship posing with men with black markings drawn on their faces and bodies and wearing “grass” skirts.
Princess Cruises confirmed that the men were staff from the Golden Princess and said in a statement that it took “immediate steps to address this sensitive situation”.
“After being made aware of the situation, the ship’s management team took action to withdraw the ship photographers from the area to prevent any further possibility of cultural insensitivity,” Princess Cruises said.
“We give a complete assurance that no offence was ever intended and we apologise unreservedly for what has happened.”
Community condemns Princess Cruises for cultural insensitivity and “blatant racism”
Mana whenua Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley told the NZ Herald he was shocked at the photos, and had done his own background checks to confirm the incident took place.
“Our plea to the cruise liner is, just stop. Think about what you are doing,” Stanley said. “Get in touch with us and we can put you in touch with people who can do a far better, and appropriate, job.”
Along with the offence caused to Māori, Stanley told the outlet it was a terrible way for international guests to be greeted.
“For the manuhiri to be treated with a pantomime pōwhiri like this beggars belief, and further perpetuates racist myths. The cruise industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, they’ve got some responsibility to do the right thing,” he said.
While Māori cultural advisor Karaitiana Taiuru told the outlet the images and video were so bad he thought they were a hoax.
“It is blatant racism and exploitation of Māori culture and of staff by the company,” Taiuru said.
“It is derogatory and there is no excuse for such behaviour in today’s age where other actions have been in the media and criticised.”
Tauranga’s mayor, Tenby Powell, told Stuff he had received numerous calls about the incident, which he told the outlet had sparked “very, very genuine concerns”.
“If the facts are as I understand this shows a complete lack of cultural awareness,” Powell said.
Featured image: “Footage emerges of several non-Māori employees performing a pōwhiri at the Port of Tauranga in New Zealand” posted by @MAORIMADE (Facebook).