The Auckland brewery that sparked controversy after putting images of Te Arawa legends on beer bottles has apologised for any offence, and says it is now working with Maori to change the labels.

Birkenhead Brewery Company owner and co-founder Steve Simms said the company was sorry.

The Rotorua Daily Post reported that the beer brands had caused outrage and one Maori leader said he was disgusted at what he believed was the "belittling of our ancestors".

The labels also created a backlash on social media.


Simms today said: "We thank you for your comment and statement. We have listened."

The four beers were named after the kauri forest in their suburb and three major streets that feed into the centre of their village, he said.

"We consulted extensively with our local iwi in Birkenhead and several experts on Maori culture.

"We wanted to make sure that we were behaving in a manner that respected, honoured and celebrated our New Zealand heritage and culture.

"We created our own imagery and ensured the stories were based on documented evidence that offered an explanation of what the names stood for. We wanted to ensure that respect was paid to the creators of those stories with full cultural recognition."

He said despite the company's best efforts, it was clear that some people were unhappy with the use of the names Hinemoa and Mokoia.

"As it was always our intention to honour and celebrate - not be disrespectful, we are now discussing the matter with Paraone Pirika, the kaumatua and chairman of Owhata Marae in Rotorua. The Owhata Marae is where the ancestral houses of Tutanekai and Hinemoa sit with pride and mana."

"We are sorry for any offence that has been caused. Through our discussions we will be looking at how we can change our labels so as to remove any potential for harm or dispute."

He said he expected the progress to be "swift".

Simms also said a death threat to the Birkenhead Brewing staff was being taken seriously and police were investigating.