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Dame Susan Devoy's speech labelled a 'train crash'

Published: 9:16AM Friday April 26, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Dame Susan Devoy's latest public appearance has been described as a "train crash in slow motion" by a woman who attended a charity event where the new race relations commissioner was a guest speaker.

The former squash great spoke at SkyCity Hamilton to help raise money for macular degeneration - the most common cause of blindness in New Zealand.

Her comments raised eyebrows and hackles, including those of Hamilton public relations consultant Jeanette Tyrrell who was not impressed with Dame Susan's performance at Friday's event.

"She should be commended for giving up her time, free, for charity, that's laudable. But watching her was like watching a train crash in slow motion - people just wanted her to stop."

When asked about the nature of her work by the MC, Dame Susan responded with the line "same s***, different day", Tyrrell said.

Another disgruntled guest said Dame Susan had described her Wellington staff as "difficult", before making an off-colour joke about men with sausages in their pockets.

The Mad Butcher, Sir Peter Leitch, who was also a guest speaker at the dinner and charity auction, leapt to Dame Susan's defence, insisting she had made no lewd jokes.

The high-profile philanthropist said the public response to her performance had made him "review what I do in the community".

"I feel absolutely sick in the guts."

Sir Peter said his decision is "a major" after years of community and charity work and believes the accusations are "politically driven".

Dame Susan did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

More than 300 invited guests attended the private function, including sporting greats Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads, former All Whites coach John Adshead and Olympian Sarah Walker.

Macular Degeneration New Zealand trustee Alan Jones and chairwoman Dr Dianne Sharp said Dame Susan was an inspiring speaker and a key factor in the organisation raising $46,000 on the night.