Hawke's Bay and Gisborne residents experience hate speech and bullying online at nearly double the rate of the rest of the country, a study has found.
Eleven per cent of residents reported being the target of bullying and harassment online in the past year, compared with seven per cent nationally.
And 9 per cent had been the target of aggression or hate speech online in the past year due to their colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
This compared with just five per cent nationally.
The statistics were part of NetSafe's State of the Online Nation study which was released on Monday to coincide with the start of the country's first dedicated online safety week taking place from July 26 to 30.
The study was undertaken to better understand the community's awareness towards online safety.
Hawke's Bay's Rizwaana Latiff said she was "really badly" bullied in the past three years, since she put her hand up for Hastings District Council, but hoped things were changing for the better.
"I hadn't even started campaigning, and I got really badly bullied. I had to shut my Facebook page down," Latiff said.
"They started sending me racially abusive letters to my letterbox."
She said it got to the point where she started getting really anxious going out of her house.
"There's unconscious bias still around, and subtle racism, but things are changing slowly because there is more awareness."
Miss Trinity Ice, a professional drag queen who grew up in Hawke's Bay, said the numbers were not surprising.
Trinity has been a drag queen for more than 10 years and identifies as queer as well as pwc (person with colour). She also owns a drag cabaret business.
"Growing up, any kid like myself was faced with open hostility," she said.
"But when I was last in Napier, for a show, I had hate messages from keyboard warriors, mostly heterosexual men who felt demasculinised by trans.
"It doesn't at all surprise me that Hawke's Bay has a high number of people who have experienced hate speech, and bullying online."
She said Hawke's Bay was a hotbed of casual racism and described it as a "tiny, closed community".
Trinity, who lives in Auckland now, said it was "so much more accepting".
Hastings District mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was "very disappointing" to hear the numbers.
"It's a real opportunity for our community to be moderators of social pages," she said.
"We have created a multi-cultural strategy which addresses exactly these issues. We would like all councils to adopt the strategy to show the importance of a diverse community.
"The strategy looks at the social and economic importance of diverse community. If we all supported one another we'd be a happy community."
Nationally, the majority of Kiwis were positive about the overall impact of the internet on their lives (71 per cent) and confident in their personal ability to manage online safety challenges (60 per cent).