A protester has torn down newly hung wall hangings depicting the Treaty of Waitangi during the swearing-in ceremony of Tauranga's new city council.

The incident happened as the council took a break after the end of the ceremony's first part today.

A man, said to be from Matapihi, entered the chambers and ripped the hangings down as people were waiting for the ceremony to resume.

He told the Bay of Plenty Times he was protesting against comments made on social media about the Treaty of Waitangi.

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The new-look Tauranga City Council was today being sworn in at council chambers.

The welcoming ceremony. Photo / Samantha Motion
The welcoming ceremony. Photo / Samantha Motion

Mayor Tenby Powell received the mayoral chains and cloak, while wife Sharon Hunter received the mayoress chains.

But several iwi leaders walked out of the room when Andrew Hollis, who has been embroiled in controversy over comments he made about the Treaty of Waitangi, stood to make his declaration.

The event started with a karanga by tangata whenua and manuhiri and was followed by speeches and the swearing-in ceremony itself.

Re-elected councillors - Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Bill Grainger, John Robson and Steve Morris - are sitting with the council's staff, joining iwi representatives in welcoming the new elected members - including mayor Tenby Powell, and councillors Jako Abrie, Andrew Hollis, Tina Salisbury, Dawn Kiddie and Heidi Hughes.

The sounds of council staff members striking over their pay on Willow St can be heard in the chamber as the inaugural meeting continues.

An iwi leader speaking on behalf of the visitors and new councillors said "welcome to the chosen ones".

He said it was good to see (the Treaty of Waitangi) "proudly displayed".

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"As to how that document will be treated, that will be determined by the team of councillors."

He said it was good to debate but dialogue was better.

Read more:
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell says councillor Andrew Hollis should resign
Local Focus: Meet Tauranga's youngest new councillor Jako Abrie
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell picks Larry Baldock for deputy mayor

The mayor and councillors will be able to act in their roles after they are sworn in.

Deputy Electoral Officer Robyn Garrett said this year's election had the best voter turnout since 2010, reversing a long-term trend for lower turnouts.

Nearly 40.3 per cent of voting papers were returned this year, compared with about 38 per cent in the last two elections and 43.6 per cent in 2010.

More to come.

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