The owner of a gift shop on Waiheke Island is standing by her decision to stock golliwog dolls and insists the toys don't have racist roots.

Escapade Boutique stocks the $46 dolls, but owner Kat told Fairfax they were based on chimney sweeps, not black people.

"They're known all over the world. The only people you have to be very quick to explain them to is black Americans," she said.

"You just see the look on their faces and I get in quick and tell them they're not what you think."


Kat told Fairfax the dolls were originally meant to represent chimney sweeps, but acknowledged some customers had "a bit of a look on their faces" when she told them so.

She said there were "more important things for people to get offended about".

"As far as I'm concerned society has just gotten far too PC. We've lost so many great stories.

"I don't care if people have a go at me about my gollis. I'm not going to stop selling them."

Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB in 2015 she didn't personally find the dolls distasteful, but they were not acceptable anymore.

Her comments came after a Pak'n Save supermarket in Hamilton pulled similar dolls from sale after public outcry.

"I just think it's happening more and more often and I wonder why people even cause themselves so much consternation these days when we know it's just not acceptable anymore," she said.

"What was acceptable when we were growing up is no longer acceptable, and I think we just need to move on and not have situations where it's kept being brought up all the time.

"I thought they were a thing of the past, I was quite surprised to hear that they still actually exist in New Zealand."

The dolls are believed to have originated from a book illustrated by Florence Kate Upton, who designed the golliwog children's character based on blackface minstrels.