Flippant remark lands Minister in trouble

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Newshub, Wellington

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A National Party Minister is facing questions – and calls for her resignation – after tweeting she would rather be out on the harbour rather than meeting with disability groups.

Minister for Disabilities and MP for Christchurch Central, Nicky Wagner, tweeted on Thursday that she was “busy with disability meetings in Auckland – rather be out on the harbour!”

Public criticism

“So, would everyone with a disability but not everyone gets that choice,” replied one tweeter.

“How dare you be so flippant,” replied another. “I know one of those disabled people you were meeting with, and she had been looking forward to it for two weeks.”

When asked to elaborate on what she meant, Ms Wagner told Newshub, “I had a fantastic day in Auckland meeting with the Murray Halberg Trust, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service and EMA on disability issues.

“It was a gorgeous day and we all would have rather had the meetings out on the harbour.”

She later tweeted an apology, saying she did not mean to cause offense.

“I apologise for any offence I have caused to the disability community. That was not my intention”, she said.

Opposition demand

But she’s facing sharp criticism from the disability community and opposition parties.

Although the Labour Party’s spokesperson for disability issues Poto Williams did not have any comment for Newshub, Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson used twitter to call for Ms Wagner’s resignation.

“Oh, My God. You are the Minister for Disabilities, show some respect. Actually, come to think of it, just resign and go be on the harbour,” Mr Robertson tweeted.

The Green Party’s spokesperson for disability Issues Mojo Mathers says the tweet is appallingly shallow.

“It really makes me question her commitment to the disability community if she would rather be out on the harbour than in meetings with them,” Ms Mathers said to Newshub.

Gary Farrow, a journalist and disability advocate who lives with a severe brain injury, says he is concerned about Ms Wagner’s progress with the portfolio if she is complaining about attending meetings.

“If our own Disability Issues Minister is subliminally complaining about attending meetings in Auckland, relating to exactly that portfolio, by openly commenting that she’d rather be somewhere on the harbour – which is inaccessible to many people with disabilities – then I fear for the amount of progress she’s actually aiming to achieve for the disabled community at these meetings.”

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Photo Caption:

Nicky Wagner

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