'White man's island': Woman stands by video decisions

8:00 pm on 4 January 2017

A young mother is standing by her decision to post a video about her encounter with Sir Peter Leitch at a Waiheke vineyard but says it was right to remove it when nasty comments were being hurled at him.

Lara Wharepapa-Bridger

Lara Wharepapa-Bridger Photo: Supplied

Lara Wharepapa-Bridger, 23, posted the video on social media yesterday, claiming he told her the island was a "white man's island" and that she should get off it.

She has now spoken about yesterday's incident for the first time since the exchange.

In her version of events, which she also described in her video, she said her family had just arrived at Stonyridge Vineyard for a wine-tasting when Sir Peter approached their table.

He warned them against drinking and driving, to which Ms Wharepapa-Bridger's mother responded by saying she was not participating in the wine-tasting.

He made a comment about them not being local, and Ms Wharepapa-Bridger explained: "Yeah, I'm a local, I'm tangata whenua, I was born here."

She said that was all she said and that he responded by saying, "Well, you need to acknowledge this is a white man's island now, you need to acknowledge that."

Ms Wharepapa-Bridger said she had also received threatening messages as a result of the video, and the experience had made her question New Zealand's attitude towards racism.

She had taken a lot of flak because Sir Peter had status in the community, she said.

The New Zealand businessman is best known for founding the Mad Butcher chain and is an ambassador for rugby league teams, including the Warriors.

He released a statement last night, in which he said his comments had been misinterpreted.

"I was joking with her group about not drinking too much because there were lots of police on the island. She said that she was tangata whenua and could do what she liked, and I responded with a joke about it being a white man's island also.

"This was not a serious comment and was only ever intended to be light-hearted banter ... When she later informed me she was offended by my comment I apologised unreservedly."

'You are a sir and you should know better'

Ms Wharepapa-Bridger said she had not misinterpreted his comments.

She told RNZ that, if she could speak directly with him, she would say: "You are a sir and you should know better, you can't go around saying this type of stuff and shrug it off."

At first the conversation was friendly, she said, but it changed after she said she was tangata whenua and he stood over her and pointed in her face.

She said her mother, Sandra Wharepapa, later walked over to Sir Peter and told him they were leaving because he had upset her daughter.

Ms Wharepapa told RNZ he put his hand on her arm and asked for her and her daughter's contact details, which they did not hand over.

Her daughter said, as they were leaving, he told them he wanted to make a donation but they declined.

The Wharepapa family have lived on Waiheke Island, and Ms Wharepapa-Bridger was born there.

She said she had never felt like she did not belong there, until her encounter with Sir Peter.

The video was watched by more than 100,000 people before it was removed yesterday by Ms Wharepapa-Bridger. She removed it after the negative comments aimed at Sir Peter, she said.

She said she had contacted him, apologised for the comments the video had generated, and asked for a meeting and an opportunity to hear his explanation, but he did not take it up.

Sir Peter's spokeswoman, Michelle Boag, declined an interview request but told RNZ there had been no offer of a donation.