Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon is calling out racism amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak which started in Wuhan, China.
So far, 170 people have died and the disease has spread to countries throughout Asia, Europe, the US and Australia. It has not yet been confirmed in New Zealand.
But there has since been an advert from a Hamilton bar making light of the outbreak, as well as reports of Chinese-New Zealanders being told to "go home", which Mr Foon said was "a typical response in times like this".
"I think racism is actually at the tip of our tongues at times and the tolerance rate is very low," he told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.
Mr Foon said that after major events or world issues racism often comes out, including after the 9/11 attacks, when the stereotype became that all Muslims were terrorists.
"The world is close in terms of its sensitivity," he said. "We're generally very kind New Zealanders. Look, at March 15 we all came out and supported the Muslim community - there with compassion and kindness - and we're just asking for sensibility. No one in New Zealand has actually got this disease at the present time."
However, Mr Foon said it was only a few people among the masses who were acting out.
"We need to find sensibility and compassion at times like this," he urged.
But when asked if the House on Hood bar's advert, which showed two men in Hazmat suits drinking Corona beer and with a caption highlighting a sale on the product, was racist, Mr Foon said it wasn't - just "poor taste".
"Exploitation of people dying for money absolutely is not on.
"It's just ill-informed stupidity. Show a bit of compassion in this time to have a serious conversation about our health and safety in New Zealand."
Mr Foon drew comparisons to cartoonist Garrick Tremain, whose cartoon in the Otago Daily Times making light of the Samoa measles outbreak received backlash.
"People are just using those as public stunts," he said.
"This one is actually quite worse actually in terms of the number of people that are going to die and people are dying exponentially every day so it's a very serious disease and we must treat it as that."
Mr Foon also talked about a new programme being rolled out, called Give Nothing to Racism, which has had good debates on issues, including what is a New Zealander, the contribution of immigrants into New Zealand and the contribution of culture, food and economics.
"Immigration, ethnic communities in our community, as diverse as they are, contribute tremendously to our communities," he said.
"We all are [immigrants], we just came at different times."