Police have back-tracked and apologised to the Irish after making an unsubstantiated assumption about the nationality of a dangerous driver who strapped a kayak crossways to his car.
A police statement yesterday said an Irish tourist was stopped by a police patrol on State Highway 25A in Coromandel, between Kopu and Hikuai, on Sunday afternoon.
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Rather than tying the kayak to the roof of his car lengthways, the man had attached the kayak crossways, so its ends were protruding over either side of the car.
Since yesterday, the story has gone global and been reported by Irish media.
But in a statement today, police admitted the officer who stopped the tourist had assumed the man was Irish because of his accent.
A police spokesman later revealed the man was not even believed to be a tourist, and was thought to live in Auckland and hold a New Zealand driver's licence.
In today's police statement, Waikato district road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace apologised to the Irish for any offence.
"While the man was a visitor to the region, he was not Irish and as a result Waikato police wish to offer an unreserved apology to any persons of Irish descent we may have offended."
Mrs Grace said the man was not issued a ticket because he appeared to have a foreign accent.
"In this case the officer believed obtaining compliance from the motorist and preventing a crash was a more effective outcome than issuing the driver a fine and she believed she was enhancing foreign relations."
The statement said the officer had not checked the driver's identity documents.
However, Irish news website The Journal reported a New Zealand police spokesperson had said "the man's nationality was revealed when he presented his ID to the officer who stopped him, and then confirmed by him verbally".
In response to the differing accounts, Waikato police spokesman Andrew McAlley said he never confirmed to Irish media that the driver's ID was checked.
"I said I wasn't there to comment on what has occurred, however standard practice would have been his ID was checked."
Mr McAlley could not confirm the nationality of the man, as he was yet to be identified by police.
"What I can confirm is we believe the person is the holder of a New Zealand driver's license and comes from Auckland."
Mr McAlley said after interviewing the driver, Irish media were "kind enough" to make contact with the police, which has led them to the man behind the wheel.
However, he said police had no desire to get in touch with the driver.
"At the end of the day the matter is sorted. Though the officer made the assumption he had an accent, he [the driver] was still creating quite a serious risk."
Mr McAlley said while police had received no complaints, it was better to "front foot it with an apology".
"We apologise emphatically to any Irish people that have been caused any ... concern."