The Waitaki district tourism board was left with a sour taste after staff appearing in the Sweet Spot marketing campaign were targeted by online abuse.
Tourism Waitaki said that staff had raised issues of "cyber bullying" and "racial harassment" after appearing in a series of online videos published by the regional tourism promoter.
The promotional videos featuring staff exploring the region's attractions and Kiwi comedian Tom Sainsbury, cost a reported $17000.
The whimsical series of minute-long videos were shared via Facebook and YouTube to mixed reactions.
While some Oamaruvians were "disgusted with the presentation of our region" others were not put off by the video.
One viewer said it was "a bit odd but I rate it".
Tourism Waitaki chair Mike McElhinney said that the videos were intentionally divisive, to provide "cut through" in a busy domestic tourism market.
"With the borders closed all regions are vying for the same tourists" the videos had been commissioned to help the district stand out from larger, better funded regions.
According to Tourism Waitaki the campaign has reached 2 million people.
As the self-proclaimed "Capital of Steampunk", he said the video achieved its goal of depicting Waitaki and Oamaru as a "welcoming and somewhat quirky place".
It is a brand that divides even locals and is not for everyone.
However McElhinney said some of the comments went beyond fair criticism.
It was the staff who raised the online abuse with the tourism board, which was reportedly of a racial and personal nature, targeting those who helped make the videos.
McElhinney said the content of these comments "has affected some staff to the point where they are frightened to be out in public."
It is understood that the comments were left by social media accounts belonging to locals.
The offending online comments were flagged by Tourism Waitaki are under investigation by "relevant authorities".
The issue was raised with Netsafe New Zealand's online safety charity.
A spokesperson for Netsafe told the Herald that businesses need to be aware that "a small percentage of the internet is extremely intolerant," and employers are responsible for the online safety of those appearing in marketing material.
Employers need to be aware of where videos will be seen and that some individuals will be prone to targeting by online abuse.
It is an employer's responsibility to advise those appearing in a video of potential repercussions and to protect people appearing in materials from online harm.
The majority of Netsafe's work is advising individuals on the Harmful Digital Communications Act.
In the case where online threats were credible or had the potential to lead to physical harm, it was a matter for police to investigate.
"If you are in a small community and you have reason to believe that the threats are credible these should be raised with the police."
The tourism board said that it would keep running the videos and monitoring comments online.
Tourism Waitaki said that it was a small district trying to market itself on a national level.
"It is no secret racism in New Zealand runs deep, and this is another case that shows the dangerous undercurrent of cyber bullying," said a spokesperson for the regional tourism organisation.