Police Commissioner Howard Broad has acknowledged and expressed regret over the hurt caused to Maori by last year's anti-terror raids.
The frank admission was made during a speech at a Wainuiomata Marae hui in which Broad also spoke of differing opinions with his advisers over the raids. He did not rule out a future apology to Maori.
Nationwide dawn raids were executed last October when police arrested 17 Maori, political and environmental activists under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and Firearms Act.
At the time, Broad said the swoop was the culmination of a year-long investigation into the alleged guerrilla-style training camps in Ruatoki.
But Solicitor General David Collins later ruled the charges and allegations, mostly relating to firearms, did not fall within the guidelines of so-called terror-related crimes.
Maori Party co-leader Dr Pita Sharples said at the time the police raids set back race relations with Maori by 100 years, and Peter Williams, QC, is leading legal action against the Government on behalf of the Tuhoe tribe. Broad ended the Wainuiomata hui last week with a speech in which he acknowledged the hurt caused by the raids in Tuhoe territory.
"That there is hurt, I understand that, I understand how that happened and I deeply regret that.
"Believe me, the way I see myself and my role, I will do what I can to set that hurt aside, as much as I can myself."
Broad did not rule out a formal apology but said it would be subject to internal processes.
"The question I have been challenged with; it's just beyond that expression of regret. I have not decided about that yet, I have not ruled it out."
New Zealand's top cop also admitted to ongoing differences of opinion with advisory staff over the decision to go ahead with the raids.
"It was an operation that dealt with some very serious issues and I did think very seriously about the sort of advice that I needed."
Despite his regret, Broad maintains he took the right course of action under the circumstances.
"I took the particular course of action because I believed I was right and I also believed that I had responsibilities as Commissioner of Police that are constitutionally independent around certain things."
The hui brought together area commanders from across the Wellington districts and representatives of groups active in Maori communities.
Maori party spokesman Te Ururoa Flavell said of Broad's speech, "an acknowledgement is a good start".