The Race Relations Commissioner has called on organisers of a basketball tournament to allow a teenage girls' team to play after they were refused entry because their coach wasn't Maori.
Basketball coach Andrew McKay said it was unfair to his under 17s team who were barred from this week's National Maori Basketball Tournament after a rule change meant even coaches and management had to be Maori to enter.
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said she hoped the issues could be sorted out.
"I'm hoping organisers can keep talking with those affected so this can be sorted out because it's the kids who are missing out," she said in a statement.
"Sports codes who wish to grow a sport and strengthen networks within ethnic communities aren't new - the Warriors sponsor the Ethnic Rugby League competition and New Zealand's Ethnic Football Festival is a nationwide tournament.
"The Nga Hau E Wha Maori Squash tournament is also hugely popular, the biggest in New Zealand with players from all ethnic backgrounds welcome."
However, she cautioned that she did not have "all the facts about this issue".
"The commission has not received a formal complaint from those affected."
Mr McKay coached a Ngati Whakaue team which won the under-15 division at last year's tournament in Rotorua.
But his application in October to enter the same team in the under-17 grade for this week's competition, which starts today, was initially declined by the organisers because he was non-Maori.
A clause that all coaching and management personnel must provide whakapapa to an iwi -- or state tribal links -- was added to the online entry forms after he had applied, he said.
A second application for the team was made with the girls to be coached by Ngati Whakaue descendant Richard Wharerahi. It was declined a second time with an email stating organisers believed it was a front for the original applicant and Mr Wharerahi had no basketball coaching or management experience.
Tournament director Sue Pene and her husband, Rotorua Basketball Association president Darrell Pene, both said an offer has since been made for the girls to enter, not as an individual team, but under Te Arawa.
They would be split up and trial as were other players wanting to compete for Te Arawa.
Mrs Pene said non-Maori personnel were excluded because they wanted to encourage more Maori into coaching and refereeing positions.
Meanwhile, Dame Susan said accusations of apartheid levelled at the tournament organisers on social media were "wrong".
"Apartheid was a historical, murderous system of racial oppression against non-white South Africans that pervaded every aspect of their lives -- it's incorrect and incredibly disrespectful to casually say that what is happening in Rotorua is apartheid, because it isn't," she said.
A spokeswoman for Dame Susan said she was unable to make any further comment on the issue.