Auckland Mayor Len Brown has backed down over the $3.4 million budget for the Maori Statutory Board and is sending it to the full council for a likely cutback on Monday.

Nine councillors yesterday signed a letter to Mr Brown and council chief executive Doug McKay saying they were "extremely disappointed" at the process that led to a funding agreement with the Maori board being rushed through Tuesday's finance committee meeting under urgency.

They said it was "completely unacceptable" to have a report on a funding agreement for the board dropped on them without notice, and demanded answers to the "underhand process".

"It is going to be difficult to place trust in the leadership of council if this is an example of council practice and what we should come to expect," said the letter, organised by Citizens & Ratepayers co-leader Christine Fletcher.

On Tuesday, the finance committee voted unanimously to fund the unelected board to the tune of $2,066,000 for the remaining eight months of the current financial year and include $3,435,500 in the 2011-2012 draft annual plan for consultation.

The public uproar over the cost has been exacerbated by the fact members of the unelected nine-strong board will sit and vote on 11 of the council's 18 committees. The number of committees with Maori members could rise.

Mayor Brown said it was now clear the finance committee did not have the delegation to approve the board's draft budget and as a result the matter would be considered by the full council.

He believed there was considerable room for savings in the draft $3.4 million budget, saying he had told officers to look at ways the board could work more closely with the council.

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said some serious fat would have to be trimmed from the budget to get councillor sign off.

Last night, Mr McKay said the council was required by law to have a funding package for the board in place by February 15 and had targeted Tuesdays's finance meeting for committee approval, with final approval by the full council on Monday.

He said 17 councillors attended a workshop with the board on Monday where the funding proposal was presented without major dissension. It was developed overnight into its final form for the finance committee.

Mr McKay accepted there was not a lot of time for councillors to absorb all the material, but said it should not have come as a surprise following the workshop.

He admitted officers had given "ambiguous advice" about the approval process by the finance committee, and "I have to take that on the chin".

Mr Brown restated his view that two elected Maori members on the Auckland Council would be a more effective and democratic way to meet the needs and aspirations of Maori.

After Local Government Minister Rodney Hide threatened to resign if the council had Maori seats, the Government, with Maori Party backing, set up the Maori board in law. The legislation says the council "must meet the reasonable costs" of its operations, secretariat, establishing committees and obtaining advice.

The funding pact provides a chief executive officer for the board, three policy advisers, a communications adviser and two administrative staff.