Tauranga City Council did "huge damage" to relations with Māori by going back on its decision to give 11 Mission St to the Ōtamataha Trust, a prominent local figure says.
On September 10, the council conditionally resolved to give the historic section, which neighbours the Elms, to the trust, which would lease it to the Elms Foundation for $1 a year.
After complaints about the process taken to reach that decision, it was revoked yesterday.
Votes to give the land directly to either the trust or foundation failed.
Seeking a middle ground - and in recognition of its division - the council then voted by majority to "either gift or lease the land to an entity representing both the Ōtamataha Trust and the Elms Foundation".
As no such entity exists, it will be up to the next lot of elected members to sort out the details of the deal post-election alongside the foundation and the trust.
Representatives of both organisations have said they will be able to work together.
The vocal crowd of around 50 people in chambers to watch the decision was dominated by trust supporters, some of whom commentated the debate with interjections and applause.
After a vote to give the land to the trust failed, a woman called out: "This is the most racist council in this country, this is disgusting, I am disgusted in you."
Tommy Wilson, author and Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Trust leader, was in the crowd and said that when many gathered again after the meeting, frustrations were running high.
"This whole thing is a nightmare on Elm Street," he said.
"The feeling is this could well be another Ihumātao."
He said the damage to council-tangata whenua relations was "huge".
Those who voted against giving the land to the trust should not count on "any kaumatua supporting this kaupapa" to turn up when asked to give blessings and the like, he said.
"The relationship between Māori and the Crown is like a teabag. The real colour comes out when it is stuck in hot water. Well, this teabag has been in hot water and the colour of this teabag is no good."
The Bay of Plenty Times was not able to reach Trust chairman Puheraki Ihaka for comment.
Trustee Peri Kohu said the decision made on Tuesday was "open-ended and passing the buck".
"Whether it's electioneering or a lack of intestinal fortitude - whatever the reason, they passed the buck today."
Asked if he thought the decision had damaged council-tangata whenua relations, he said Māori were "here for the long term".
"If there was some ground lost we would take that as it comes and continue to seek further relationships as we are forced to live together. We are no longer a monocultural society and some people seem to be having trouble with that."
He said councillor Max Mason's comment that colonialism was "alive in well" in some mindsets "hit the button", but Māori had developed a thick skin and would continue to seek a partnership approach.
Kohu said people who wanted 11 Mission St given to the trust were invited to gather at the section at 1pm on Thursday to "show their support for giving it back".
Ian Thomas, chairman of the Elms Foundation board of trustees, said that while the decision was not clear on some points, it was important because it "recognised the interest of the Ōtamataha Trust as the holder of the mana whenua".
He was confident the trust and foundation could work together to find a way forward.
The foundation - which tried to stay neutral in the council's decision but internally preferred the land go to the foundation - would "get off the fence", he said.
One issue, one meeting, four votes
1. Affirm the decision to give the land to the Otamataha Trust.
For: Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Max Mason, Steve Morris.
Against: Greg Brownless, John Robson, Leanne Brown, Bill Grainger, Catherine Stewart, Rick Curach.
2. Revoke the decision to give the land to the Otamataha Trust.
For: Greg Brownless (casting vote) John Robson, Leanne Brown, Catherine Stewart, Rick Curach.
Against: Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Max Mason, Steve Morris.
Abstained: Bill Grainger.
3. Give the land to the Elms.
For: Greg Brownless, John Robson, Catherine Stewart.
Against: Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Max Mason, Steve Morris, Bill Grainger, Rich Curach, Leanne Brown.
4. Give or lease the land to an entity representing both the trust and the foundation.
For: Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Max Mason, Steve Morris, Bill Grainger, Rich Curach, Leanne Brown.
Against: Greg Brownless, Catherine Stewart.
Abstained: John Robson.