A Tauranga councillor has apologised for having a Facebook dig at a mayoral candidate for mispronouncing the name of a local icon.

But the target of the post says the episode was "just plain pathetic".

Last night Mount Maunganui/Pāpāmoa ward councillor Steve Morris posted on his public page a still from a Local Focus video interview with businessman Tenby Powell, who is running for Tauranga mayor.

In the video, Powell refers to "when Marineland Island was at Matariki".

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Morris tagged Powell and wrote:

"Hey buddy, bit of local knowledge, it's called Moturiki island. Matariki is the Maori New Year which occurs when the Pleiades star cluster reappears in the early morning in May/June. Kei te pai?"

Some responders defended Powell, including Simone Anderson from The Incubator. Image / Facebook
Some responders defended Powell, including Simone Anderson from The Incubator. Image / Facebook

Moturiki, otherwise known as Leisure Island, sits just off Mount Maunganui's main beach and was home to an outdoor aquarium, Marineland, until 1981.

The post attracted dozens of comments, including many in support of Powell and chiding Morris for policing someone else's pronunciation of te reo Māori.

This morning Morris posted an apology: "Apologies Tenby Powell. I over-estimated the comedic value of making light of your mis-pronunciation [sic] of a local place name yesterday. It's not as though I haven't tripped over a few names myself! Not the best Facebook etiquette and may have been a touch unkind from me."

Apologies Tenby Powell. I over-estimated the comedic value of making light of your mis-pronunciation of a local place...

Posted by Steve Morris - Tauranga City Councillor for the Mount & Papamoa on Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Powell told the Bay of Plenty Times this morning he was expecting criticism but this was "just plain pathetic".

He said it reinforced his belief that Tauranga deserved better leadership.

"The immaturity and toxicity has got to go."

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He later posted a reply on Facebook accepting Morris' apology.

"Your use of the word 'unkind' is well chosen and will resonate with many residents who have made it clear to me they are looking for compassionate, engaged and 'kind' civic leadership. Something we should all listen to and can learn from. Have a great day."

Tauranga mayoral candidate Tenby Powell. Photo / George Novak
Tauranga mayoral candidate Tenby Powell. Photo / George Novak

Morris was not able to be contacted for further comment this morning. The original post appeared to have been removed from his Facebook page.

Morris was elected to the council in 2013 and has announced he will stand again this year, but has not said whether he will have another run at the mayoralty.

He is chairman of the council's Policy Committee and has been known to use te reo Māori in the chamber.

Tauranga City Councillor Steve Morris. File photo
Tauranga City Councillor Steve Morris. File photo

Powell was a lieutenant-colonel in the New Zealand Army before retiring. He now chairs Government advisory group the Small Business Council, and runs Hunter Powell Investment Partners with his entrepreneur wife, Sharon Hunter.

The pair recently moved from Auckland to Tauranga, where Powell grew up.