The Department of Internal Affairs has apologised to a Maori mother after it admitted failing to deliver services contingent to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It also promised to send its staff on a cultural awareness course run by her Marae.

Rowyne Peters complained to the department in February after her request for Maori support was denied during the passport application process of her 19-year-old son.

Mrs Peters believes she was entitled to make the request under the principles of the Treaty and that staff behaved culturally inappropriately.

The department apologised for its failure at a special hui with Mrs Peters and her whanau at Te Unga Waka Marae in Epsom yesterday.

Mrs Peters says it is the first time the department has been held to account in this way.

"When I saw the principles of the Treaty framed and hanging on their wall I knew I was within my rights to ask for Maori assistance.

"But the manager made me feel like I was being a nuisance."

"When I asked him why the Treaty principles were there, he said they were for his staff not the public."

To address the issue and make apology, Internal Affairs representatives attended a hui with Mrs Peters and her whanau.

Representative Catherine Munro apologised to Mrs Peters and her whanau for handling the situation in a poor manner, and said the department had identified gaps in its processes pertaining to Maori support.

Among those present it was agreed a course in cultural competency for department staff would be a good starting point and that Te Unga Waka Marae would be ideally suited to facilitate it.

A statement from the Department of Internal Affairs said responding in a culturally appropriate way to Maori citizens is an important part of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

For Mrs Peters and her whanau the initial offence was simply the catalyst to developing a partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs and creating opportunities for Maori.

"I'm really pleased with the outcome.

"The purpose of the meeting was to encourage Maori recruitment and develop a close working relationship between internal Affairs and Te Unga Waka Marae.

"I think we achieved that."