By Patrick Gower
Labour's pursuit of the Pacific Islander vote in the Mana by-election has been dealt a blow, with a member of candidate Kris Faafoi's campaign team forced to apologise for calling a National Party rival a "dumb-ass coconut".
Litea Ah Hoi is a hardcore Labour supporter out fighting for votes in the by-election - so hardcore her Facebook page carried a message calling a rival a "dumb-ass coconut".
"It's Pacific humour," she says. "Whether you put it together with dumb-ass, and then the coconut... if she took offence to it, then like..." Ms Ah Hoi pulls a surprised face.
But the target didn't laugh - she found it abusive.
Liz Tanielu says Labour doesn't like losing the Pacific vote to Hekia Parata - and bullies anyone who gets out of line.
"If this was a non-Pacific person who said that, they would have been sacked," she says. "There would have been severe consequences.
"Well the same thing should apply to Litea and her flunkies."
But 3 News found Ms Ah Hoi working in Mr Faafoi's campaign headquarters today. She will be staying on, even though Mr Faafoi himself doesn't like the term.
"In some senses it can be funny," says Mr Faafoi, "in a context when it's comedy. But in this context, it's wrong."
Ms Ah Hoi is a Porirua city councillor and former deputy mayor. She said there has been abuse from the National side too, but still apologised - sort of.
"I, Litea Ah Hoi, on behalf of Porirua Proud, apologise for the term 'dumb-ass coconut' being used. And if people are offended by it, can I suggest you put it in a bubble and blow it away."
Labour's got a 6000-vote majority here in Mana, but is clearly feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday's by-election, with leader Phil Goff today urging supporters to get out and vote. But it's easily arguable that controversial comments from its campaign team won't help that at all.