A popular tourist attraction in New Zealand has removed a racially offensive sign after being called out online.
The sign was on display at Tikitere, a geothermal park, mud spa and bath in Rotorua named “Hell’s Gate” in the 19th century by Irish playwright Sir George Bernard Shaw.
The sign featured a cartoon depiction of a Māori man with tattoos holding a spoon and standing above a cooking pot. In the pot’s water was an individual tangled up by rope over an open flame, and a cut-out in the sign allowed for folks to pose underneath a note reading, “Enjoying the waters at Hell’s Gate.”
While the sign has reportedly been on display for pretty much twenty years at the Māoperated and ori-owned property, it recently drew criticism online whenever a blogger who identifies as Māori posted about any of it on Twitter.
“So apparently in the event that you visit the Hells Gate visitor attraction at Rotorua, there’s this f—ing awful thing it is possible to take your photo with,” Moata Tamaira wrote.
“Am I alone in thinking that is only a grotesque racial stereotype played for laughs and that it is actually horribly offensive?”
Many others agreed with Tamaira, calling the sign “disgusting.”
“It really is wrong on so many levels. I assume it was an unhealthy attempt at [humor],” one individual wrote.
“Seems we still have a whole large amount of growing around do if anyone thinks that is appropriate,” someone else commented.
Hell’s Gate operations manager Paul Rayner told the brand new Zealand Herald the sign was ordered by him to be studied down, though noted this is the initial complaint he received in 18 years of working at the spa.
“We have been Māoperated and ori-owned. This is the last thing you want to do… we don’t desire to cause offense to anybody,” Rayner told the Herald.
According to the Herald, Māori have already been bathing in the geothermal muds and hot springs of Tikitere for over 700 years.
A second sign, which includes a devil holding a pitchfork with a cutout for posing, stands on the house still.