An organiser of the New Zealand Miss Universe competition is blaming pageant judges for the controversy surrounding the decrowning of a South African beauty queen.
Howick resident Avianca Bohm yesterday lost her Miss Universe title when her application for New Zealand citizenship was denied unexpectedly.
Organiser Val Lott is blaming the head judge and a South African born judge for crowning the 22-year-old the winner when she said they knew she was not a New Zealand citizen - a violation of pageant rules.
She said the organisers decided to let her continue in the competition to gain "experience".
"I said to Avianca 'you haven't got citizenship but you did win Miss Howick, I'm going to take you in and you cannot win'. The head judge knew," Lott told TV ONE's Breakfast.
"It was most unfortunate the judges decided to go behind my back and play their own rules."
Lott claimed the two judges told her they would try to "fast-track" Bohm's citizenship application when she spoke to them after the pageant.
Bohm was stripped of her crown yesterday when organisers announced runner-up Talia Bennett would replace her as Miss Universe New Zealand 2012.
Lott said the appointment of Bennett brings an end to the two month "battle" that has embarrassed the New Zealand branch of the pageant and caused sponsors to pull out.
Bennett, a Miss North Shore beauty queen, is a 23-year-old Bachelor of Property graduate and qualified commercial property valuer aiming to "climb the corporate ladder pursuing a career in property development", according to the Miss Universe website.
She told Breakfast she was "overwhelmed" to be appointed the new Miss Universe.
"I think it's unfortunate, but at the end of the day rules are rules," she said.
"It is unfortunate on her behalf but I'm just focusing on moving forward with the competition and doing the best I can."