The spokeswoman for Sir Peter Leitch says she has learned a thing or two in the last couple of days about casual racism - and the idea that what you might think is okay, can be offensive to others.

Michelle Boag said she had come to the conclusion after reading comments made by the Human Rights Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy.

Speaking about claims by 23-year-old woman Lara Bridger that Sir Peter made racist remarks towards her this week, Dame Susan acknowledged how casual racism could hurt others.

"The thing about so-called casual racism is that it doesn't feel very casual if it happens to you or your family, as Lara has shown us,'' she said.


This afternoon, Boag told the Herald: "I've since read Dame Susan's comments about casual racism and I found them quite instructive, in the sense that I had no idea what casual racism was - like most New Zealanders, I suspect.

"But I think what she's talking about is exactly what I've done; which is didn't intend to offend anyone, didn't think there was anything wrong with it, but clearly some people take offence at it.

"And that's probably a good description of what casual racism is. Dame Susan's comments have helped me to understand."

Boag's latest comments comes after she referred to Bridger as being "barely coffee-coloured".

Although she would not go as far to apologise, she said she never intended to offend anyone.

"It's not intentional - but sometimes you don't realise and appreciate sensitivity.

"I now understand what casual racism is and how easy it is to engage in it without intending to offend anyone."

Meanwhile, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy has urged Sir Peter to meet with Bridger and "make it right". She said he knew how to do the right thing but might need a bit of encouragement.


Dame Susan was speaking after attending the funeral service at Manukau Memorial Gardens in Auckland of the trio who died in the December 22 Flat Bush fire.

"He made a racist and offensive comment but he's not an offensive person," Dame Susan said of Sir Peter.

"Truth and reconciliation is a part of who we are and sometimes we muck up."

Devoy believed Sir Peter was a good person and it wouldn't be fair for one thing to cast a shadow over his whole life.