Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Racist remark riles campers

Group flooded out at Waipu told ‘this is not India’ when they asked security officer for help.
Campers John Narayan, Ravin Chander, Sunil Deo and Sailesh Narayan. Photo / Supplied
Campers John Narayan, Ravin Chander, Sunil Deo and Sailesh Narayan. Photo / Supplied

A family group holidaying at a popular campsite in Northland are upset they were told by a security guard "this is not India" after complaining about the area being flooded.

The campsite has told the guard not to come back and offered a refund to the group.

Auckland radiographer Sunil Deo says he was shocked and disappointed at the comment he and his friends feel was racist and had nothing to do with the situation they were in.

Mr Deo was among a group of 10 adults and three children who booked to stay a night at Camp Waipu Cove on Waitangi Day. They had enjoyed a good day and early evening, until it began to rain heavily.

"Everything was fine until it started raining. That was about 9.30 on Saturday night. In about half an hour, our place got flooded - about ankle-deep and some places higher than that.

"The water wouldn't go down and because we had kids with us, ranging from under two to eight, we were quite concerned. So we approached management and said: 'Our site got flooded and everything got soaked wet'."

Mr Deo said they asked if they could shift to a different site for the night, given the circumstances. However, there were no other sites available and the group was given only one real option, he said - to leave.

Waipu Cove, however, says it told the group they could move to another available site, be relocated to an all-weather room for the night or a full refund if they did not wish to stay.

A manager on duty dealt with the group, before a security guard was called. The security guard, who is not a staff member but employed by a firm contracted to secure the site, told Mr Deo and his friends "this is not India" and suggested things were done differently in New Zealand.

The group are Fijian-Indians.

"We didn't like that because we're New Zealanders. I've been here for 20 years. With the racist comment, I said: 'I'm sorry, but we just can't tolerate racist comments'. It's got nothing to do with India and camping. I don't think people anywhere camp in water."

The group decided to stick it out for the night and packed their tents up at first light. They were not given a refund.

Camp Waipu Cove managers Anton and Lucy Trist said they had spoken to staff involved and acknowledged the racist comment was unacceptable.

"We in no way condone or agree with that comment and agree it is completely unacceptable. We've informed the security company in question and expressed our concern in the strongest possible terms and will not have this security guard back on site ever again.

"They are in complete agreement with us and are in the process of disciplining this member of staff internally."

A spokesman for Northern Districts Security said they're disappointed at the comment made by their employee and confirmed they had taken disciplinary action against him.

Managing director JP Dignon said: "Northern Districts Security is a very culturally diverse company and do not condone any such comments."

Mr and Mrs Trist said their own staff felt the group had been aggressive at times. An earlier issue had arisen after they turned up with more people than had originally been booked. They were approached on site and later paid for 10 adults, at $24 per person, after declaring only four adults.

The managers say the group was offered a refund that night, which they refused. Mr Deo, however, said they were not given such an offer.

The managers said: "In light of this, we will be providing a full refund to the guests in question as a show of good faith and apology for any offense caused by the security guard's unacceptable comment."

- NZ Herald

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