Invercargill mayor criticised for using n-word in speech

Wed, Mar 8
Nobby Clark with Sir Tim Shadbolt.

Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark has been criticised for using the n-word at a public event he spoke at yesterday.

The mayor used the word while speaking at a breakfast arts event yesterday, the first in a series called All In For The Arts – which brings together panel speakers to celebrate local creativity.

In a video shared on social media, Clark can be heard posing a question: "Does poetic expression override some of our society norms?

"So you've got to close your ears if you've got a sensitive mind now," he said.

"But if we have art or poetry that uses words like queer, n****, f*** the bitch, which I have heard recently, is that beyond our tolerance".

1News has approached the mayor's office for comment on the remarks. Clark responded to criticism over the remarks in an interview with the Otago Daily Times on Monday.

"I told them at the beginning of the presentation that I wasn't going to give a speech about our Art Museum, I was going to give a speech that has a series of questions that would make someone feel very uncomfortable or would make them leave the room thinking about things," he told the ODT.

Clark continued: "So what I was saying to them was ‘are these words OK, if you're using your artistic licence or art expression?"

Two event attendees told the newspaper that his usage of the word was inappropriate.

The mayor added that several people had given him good feedback on the speech directly after he had given it.

Clark has only been in the role of Invercargill's mayor since October after the longstanding Sir Tim Shadbolt lost his job as the city's leader after 24 years.

He defeated the long-time incumbent and high-profile radio broadcaster Marcus Lush with around a 3000 vote lead over the next highest-polling candidate.

He was previously Invercargill's deputy mayor.

The breakfast event series Clark appeared at is supported by the Arts Foundation and Creative New Zealand with stops around the country this month.

"Each of the 10 events brings together an exciting mix of speakers, including local artists, businesspeople, rangatahi, Arts Foundation laureates and local politicians for coffee, kai and kōrero," according to Creative NZ.