For an American visitor to Napier last Saturday it caused bemusement and then a chuckle — but for several locals, the mayor and tourism folk it was anything but a joke.

It was a printed sign, in black ink on an A3-size sheet of paper, and in large capital letters featured the words "ITS OKAY TO BE WHITE".

Three posters were pasted together on a specially built sign pillar directly opposite the Sound Shell and just a short walk from the Napier i-Site Centre where hundreds of visitors from two visiting cruise ships came and went during the day.

The local spotted them during the morning but he had missed them at first passing and it was only after the tourist approached him that he took them in.

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"He was African-American and he asked 'are you folks racists?" the local man, who asked not to be named, said.

"But he thought it was a bit of a joke and just laughed and walked on."

The man said he told the visitor that like the US and most other countries "we too have the odd political miscreant in the community".

The visitor laughed, and then asked for directions to the Art Deco Centre and got on with enjoying his stay in the Bay.

The local man said he was angry and embarrassed and tore down the three signs.

He asked volunteers from the newly instigated Napier Ambassadors teams to keep an eye out for any others, but had not heard of any other sightings.

"Not the sort of thing anyone needs to see and to the person or persons responsible for this shocking display of racism: get a life."

Which was effectively what Napier Mayor Bill Dalton and Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said.

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"Sadly you can't prevent that sort of thing," Dalton said.

"It's the act of a nutter and it achieves nothing."

He said every town and city had "one or two people like that" and Dundas agreed.

She said the cruise ship passengers, especially the Americans, were generally well travelled.

"They see a lot of things going on in different places all around the world — and they have probably seen worse."

However, when told about the small posters she said it was "crazy" and unsettling to hear, as so many people did so much to keep the city and the region looking its tourism best.

She said anyone seeing such posters should tear them down, or report them to the council and their staff would deal with them.

"We don't need to see that sort of rubbish."

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