Butcher, Bridger and Boag

The mad furore over Peter Leitch (the mad butcher), Lara Bridger and Michelle Boag continues into the end of the week – it has become a lot of news coverage for an off hand remark on a wine tour.

Michelle Boag acted as spokesperson for Leitch and gave the story another day or two – she says she thought she was making ‘off-the-record’ comments to a journalist but they are now very much on the record. She shouldn’t have been careless.

It’s now got to Editorial level with the Press having a go in What does a ‘white man’s island’ look like?

What does a “white man’s island” look like? Is it the sort of place fair-minded New Zealanders would want to inhabit in the 21st century?

The questions arise because of a controversial encounter between Sir Peter Leitch and a young Maori woman on Waiheke Island during a wine-tasting event.

In Lara Bridger’s account, Leitch, the benighted Mad Butcher and Rugby League patron, approached her family, advised them against drink-driving and commented that they were not local. Bridger responded that, in fact, she was born on the island and was tangata whenua.

To give Leitch the benefit of the doubt, from his generational viewpoint he may have intended to be more casual than racist but, if reported correctly, his words were inappropriate in this day and age, and they caused offence.

But the people who responded with hate and threats, forcing Bridger to take down her post, were also in the wrong.

If New Zealand is to move forward as a harmonious bicultural and multi-cultural society, we need to treat each other with more respect.

We should give more thought to words and phrases and attitudes that could be offensive.

But the degree to which people take offence, especially on social media, has become a problem that amplifies things far more than they deserve.

Everything we all say and write can’t be filtered through a cultural sensitivity censor.

ODT: Reasons for offence

Auckland woman Lara Bridger (23) posted a video on social media on Tuesday, claiming Sir Peter had told her Waiheke Island was a ”white man’s island”.

In a statement, Sir Peter said he was ”extremely disappointed” a young woman had misinterpreted some light-hearted banter.

Sir Peter claimed he was joking with the young woman’s group about not drinking too much because there were lots of police on the island. Ms Bridger said she was tangata whenua and could do what she liked and Sir Peter said he responded with a joke about Waiheke being a white man’s island.

”When she later informed me she was offended by my comment, I apologised unreservedly. There is no way I can ever be accused of being racist.”

The matter should have ended there but social media whipped up a storm of controversy.

In the Internet age in which we live anyone could become the target of intense online and media attention for bugger all.

Unfortunately for Leitch his public exposure was made worse by his spokesperson, Michelle Boag.

However, instead of the matter dying away after a full apology, for some reason professional PR woman Michelle Boag – not unknown for causing controversy – got involved on behalf of Sir Peter. Ms Boag decided to describe Ms Bridger as ”barely coffee coloured”. Ms Boag also said Ms Bridger came forward because she wanted to be famous, telling media later her ”flippant” comments had been taken out of context.

Ms Boag claimed she was having a casual chat to the Maori Television journalist, except the conversation was held on a speaker phone and everyone in the Maori Television office was listening. After 40 or so years of dealing with the media, Ms Boag should have known better.

Quite a few people should now know better than to use Boag to speak on their behalf. Her mind might have been still half on holiday but she butchered her PR patch up job.

The most concerning part of the story is, for many, how soft we have become as a nation.

But if, as a people, we get upset by an older man remaining who he is, rather than who other people want him to be, then New Zealand really is becoming a strange place in which to live.

This has become a real issue in the online world. We haven’t become soft ‘as a nation’, what has changed is some people now have more opportunity to go public over offence taken. This is fine if it is done reasonably.

But when a bunch of online activists blow things out of proportion there is a real risk that both the offender and the offended get over exposed and publicly hammered.

The responsibilities lie not just with people who might say something that could be offensive to others, and not just with people who publicly show they are pissed off. These are natural human behaviours.

The new part of the problem that can make it far worse are those who jump in and take sides on their own accord, and make things far bigger than they deserve to be.

At 72, Sir Peter is at least two generations older than Ms Bridger who now, unfortunately, will have her private life scrutinised by some to find any weakness in her story or background to be exploited online.

Leitch made an off the cuff comment, Bridger was annoyed and said something about it on Facebook. Fair enough – neither had the time or took the time to think through the possible repercussions.

But those who had ample time to think through their actions, online social warriors and do gooders (who often do badly) and journalists, use a spat between others to promote their own agendas.

In New Zealand, haters will hate and Sir Peter and Ms Bridger are likely to be in for a tough few days until the news cycle dies. But thanks to social media and Ms Boag, Sir Peter will now pop up in online searches as an old white racist knight.

The wider issue here is the haters who seem to love to not just hate, but to amplify and spread that hate as much as they can.

New Zealanders need to look deeply into their reasons for offence and discover what really matters to them, other than light-hearted banter.

This is important on social outings on Waiheke Island, but more important in both traditional and social media.

Three ill judged words don’t justify three or more days of headlines and online over exposure.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  6th January 2017

    What happended to just telling morons to F.O?

  2. Reply
  3. duperez

     /  6th January 2017

    The focus might be on what any person’s island looks like but maybe it should move to the waters.

    With the recognition that there is always the chance of the presence of ‘a’ shark, there is a lack of appreciation of how many sharks there are just out of sight, cruising, drifting, waiting, thirsting for action.

    With the tiniest hint of blood, or even the possibility of blood, it is all on for young and old.

    The erudite and the uneducated, the reasoned and the irrational, the sober the immoderate have equal status in the frenzy.

    As well, an essential need for action sees media people tend an initial scratch so intently and feverishly, the blood drips then pours and their lust, and that of the roused ones too is catered for.

    Sated? Yes, after a while, but only in a temporary way – the hunt goes on for the next scratch.

  4. Blazer

     /  6th January 2017

    Boag will have to rework her hapless rap about living in John Keys paradise….unless (fingers crossed)she moves to…Hawaii.

  5. Klik Bate

     /  6th January 2017

    Interestingly, I was just talking to a mate of mine who has a holiday home on Waiheke, he reckons, “probably ninety-nine percent of the residents on the Island would agree with The Butch anyway – they just wouldn’t say it out loud” XD

  6. Is the conversation between Leitch and Lara recorded somewhere? Or is it all hearsay and slants on what they thought the other person said?

    What a storm n a teacup and complete waste of space this story is…

  7. Noel

     /  6th January 2017

    Ahh now some balance to the story arrives.
    I wonder if Bridges filed an RR Complaint after inflaming social media?

  8. Klik Bate

     /  6th January 2017

    In keeping with YNZ policy for catering to any numbnuts – ‘SPOOF ALERT’ XD


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