Claire Nathan has missed out on her dream job of air hostess, after Air New Zealand declined her because of her maori tattoo: "I thought they'd be quite proud to have someone with a ta moko representing NZ. But it was the total opposite."
She was told tattoos that couldn't be covered by the uniform were unacceptable, but she feels its a double standard from an airline whose logo is a koru. [Ahhh, but then many global travellers would see the logo as a stylised fern frond, not necessarily anything from an indigenous culture...]
Claire points out that heavily-tattooed NZ singer Gin Wigmore has appeared in Air NZ ads, as have numerous tattooed All Blacks.
However Air New Zealand says tattoos are seen as frightening or intimidating in many cultures: "We want all of our customers to feel comfortable and happy, and this has been a key driver of our grooming standard which, like many other international airlines, prevents customer-facing staff from having visible tattoos."
Naturally, Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has chimed in, calling the airline's policy a 'contradiction': "Ta moko is part of our culture, and our national airline which uses the koru motif in its brand should respect our art form." [But Pita, as is typical of someone too close to this subject, you forget that YOUR art form is not necessarily that of the entire COUNTRY. 'Respect' is far different from 'crawling through broken glass to accomodate every nuance' of a particular culture...]
Note to Air New Zealand: please don't back down to the bleaters! There WILL be fall-out from this decision. You KNOW the maori politik backed by the PC Brigade will give it all they've got.
But it's YOUR image being portrayed to customers, YOUR cash being paid in wages, YOUR choice to lay out conditions of employment.
Stay strong - or (if I'm ALLOWED to use a maori term): Kia Kaha!