Waiheke locals and tourists heading over to the island today say it's no white man's island - it's "for everyone".

Sir Peter Leitch came under fire this week after he allegedly told 23-year-old Lara Bridger Waiheke was a "white man's island".

Those spoken to catching the ferry to Waiheke from Auckland central this morning were in agreement the comment was unusual.

Liza Emau, 22, said it was one thing to think Waiheke belonged to white men, but another to say it out loud.


Teneille McFayden, a Rotorua resident catching the ferry this morning, said she felt the island was for everyone to enjoy.

"New Zealand is multicultural, so is Waiheke."

Gina Peterson, an Auckland medical sales consultant, agreed, saying the island was "everybody's."

Per Fransson, a 23-year-old tourist from Sweden, said the island shouldn't belong to certain people or those of a certain colour.

"In Sweden it's quite natural that everyone, no matter what colour, is accepted ... To say that it's a white man's island is to say that there is a difference in colours."

One tourist from South Africa thought it was a "bit of a weird thing to call something".

"It sounds like the name isn't a white man's name anyway, so it's a bit of a weird thing to say," Ewan McCulloch said.

Chris Baker, a 29-year-old from Ireland, said he felt the comment Waiheke was a "white man's island" was unacceptable in a Western society.

"I think that's quite a racially loaded statement . . . Personally I wouldn't like to hear that and I wouldn't stand for that."

Waiheke board deputy chairwoman Cath Handley said the incident could have happened anywhere in New Zealand, and was not reflective of Waiheke's environment or attitude.

"I live in the community so I know it's not true ... It's a very involving place to be."

Handley said wealth was an element of the cultural make up on Waiheke, but ultimately it was politically diverse and a highly inclusive society -- "probably more so than anywhere else".

"We're perhaps not as ethnically diverse as Auckland, but we're diverse in the sense of it being broad socio-economically."

She said elements of Waiheke's hippie roots would "always be here".

"We have a lot of people with a major focus on the environment, and a lot [who are] politically active."

The board member added the island also had a marae that was pan-tribal.

"We're very inclusive."

Waiheke board chairman Paul Walden said Waiheke was a "diverse community" who were also very accepting of this diversity.

"I say that based on many years of experience living here."

Walden said a perception that those living on Waiheke were generally wealthy was "grounded in reality that we have a lot of beautiful coastline owned by affluent people".

The chairman said there was very strong concern from members of the community that their diversity was being lost, but there was "a lot of passion" to find solutions.

"There's no doubt our community has changed, but it will always be something special."