A public health and hygiene campaign in Auckland, New Zealand has been criticised for promoting casual racism.
The signs feature a white girl telling a dark-skinned boy to remember to go to the toilet before getting into a swimming pool to avoid relieving himself in the water.
She tells him: "Hemi, stop! Make sure you visit the toilet before you swim."
In a Facebook post, Labour MP Tamati Coffey, who had seen the sign on the social media site wrote:
Anybody know which pool this sign lives at? It's been doing the FB rounds. I need to speak to the manager.
Coffey's post ignited a debate about whether the sign was racist or not. Some agreed that it did promote racism and racial profiling.
One user did point out that in a bigger version of the poster it was actually the girl that defecated in the pool.
Upon inspection Mace Ward, the Auckland Council general manager of parks sports and recreation said that the signs would be removed and the entire campaign re-examined.
The characters Hemi and Molly are used across Auckland Council’s marketing materials and were designed to appeal to young Aucklanders
This particular sign was part of a series and it was not our intent to upset anyone.
The campaign was created in response to potential public health issues and as a result we’ve have fewer pool shutdowns and less risk to human health.
We’re removing our signs from our leisure centres and will take a look at the whole campaign.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Coffey added that he was happy that the council had listened to people's concerns about the campaign as he feared it would lead to the stereotyping of 'Maori and Pacific Island' children at pools and hoped the signs would be reintroduced with neutral characters.
Neutral characters would save any kind of embarrassment for many young Māori and Pacific Island kids who might be unfortunately targeted around pools as being the sinister ones that are doing all the damage.
It's quite hard anyway to get young Māori and Pacific kids to the pools, especially to learn to swim.
Anything that makes them wary about going in, i.e. little signs that target them about being the ones that defecate in the pools, is not necessarily a good thing. I'm pleased that the council has taken time to review their campaign.
Coffey has since stated that he still intends to write to the council to suggest how to improve the signs and asked others to contribute their thoughts.