A controversial Dutch children's character will be making an appearance at a local market this weekend but the local Netherlands society says it's simply tradition.

Black Peter, also known as Zwarte Piet, is part of the feast of St Nicholas which is celebrated on December 5.

Traditionally it sees a person blacken their face, paint their lips red and don a curly black wig to hand out presents and sweets to children.

It has previously come under fire after some called for the character to be banned and called it racist.


But a Rotorua Netherlands Society member Douwe Visser said it wasn't racist, it was simply tradition.

Visser said he could see the other point of view and maybe tradition needed changing.

"I think it has to change a little because for some people it's looked at as insulting, but originally it wasn't meant that way.

"I think it will change in the future but we'll have to talk about it."

He said traditions could be hard to change.

"It's not easy. There are a lot of traditional St Nick songs that have Black Peter in them, we all sing those when we're young so I can understand there's a lot of resistance.

"It's been tradition for at least a century. It's quite difficult to change the attitudes."

Rotorua Multicultural Council president Margriet Theron said she was waiting to see what the community response to Black Peter might be.


"I'm of two minds. It's a very longstanding tradition, the old Dutch people are very attached to the tradition but ... I don't think it's going to go down well."

Theron said the Dutch Markets were well-attended by people of all nationalities.

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson said, "Racism, overt or casual, is not acceptable.

"As New Zealanders, we must challenge the perpetuation of racial stereotypes, including customs such as Black Pete."

Earlier this month a Lions club in Taranaki came under fire for using blackface in a Christmas parade, then accusing people who complained about it as "too precious".

Images of the Hawera Mt View Lions Club's float from the event showed six people dressed as black minstrels, surrounded by black and white balloons.

The float was playing the song Black and White by Michael Jackson. In a video of the event, the crowd became silent as it went past.

The final Dutch Market of the year is today at the society clubrooms in Neil Hunt Park from 10am to 1pm.