Auckland City Mission leaders say they were not aware of foreign tour groups at their Christmas lunch and have called for any "irresponsible" operator who may have sent one to offer a donation.
About 2800 people gathered at the Viaduct Events Centre on Tuesday for the charity lunch, with most guests arriving with tickets. About 200 people without tickets were let in after them.
TVNZ reported on Christmas Day that "a smattering of Chinese tourists on organised tours" had arrived, and showed city missioner Diane Robertson saying: "If somebody's turned up and is now looking at ... how we care for people, I'm not worried about that."
An outburst of concern followed online and on talkback radio. Several people said any such tour operators were taking advantage of Christmas charity.
Yesterday, Ms Robertson told the Herald she had been under the impression, when interviewed by TVNZ, that one South Korean visitor might have stumbled upon the lunch.
Ms Robertson said she had later heard - and only from the media - about a tour group possibly attending.
Volunteers had not reported anything and no sponsors had contacted her with concerns, she said.
But if any tour operator or cruise ship had sent groups to the lunch, it was irresponsible and she would wish they give money in return.
TVNZ showed footage of a table of about 10 older Asian people and its reporter attempting to speak to a woman.
A spokeswoman for Jetstar, which donated $25,000 to the City Mission for Christmas, said no issues had been raised.
Though the company had been listed as a sponsor, the spokeswoman said Jetstar had only made a donation and the event was organised entirely by the mission.
On Trade Me's message board there was an angry reaction to the television report.
One commenter said tourists who could afford airfares to New Zealand should not be given a free lunch and could participate by volunteering.By Michael Dickison Email Michael