Wellington City councillor Sean Rush has turned his back on a waiata during a fiery council meeting over mana whenua representation.
But Rush told the Herald he meant no disrespect and didn't actually realise his colleagues were singing a waiata.
Councillors met this morning to discuss local authority election considerations, including the voting system, the order candidates names are listed in, and whether there was an appetite for Māori Wards.
Councillor Jill Day introduced an amendment to develop a report on giving mana whenua voting rights and remuneration on council committees to be implemented by July next year.
Conversations about representation were happening all around Aotearoa, she said.
"In fact we're seeing daily that councils are coming on board with talking about Māori Wards and representation and I feel the tide is turning.
"Councils are finding that they agree on the need for Māori representation as we as a nation face a difficult past and look forward to a different future."
Day told her colleagues they were privileged to be around the council table and she was mindful of those who weren't there.
After introducing the amendment, several councillors stood to sing a waiata from one side of the table, to which councillor Sean Rush turned his back on by swivelling around in his chair to face the window instead.
After the waiata concluded, Rush stood up and called for a point of order, saying while well intentioned, the amendment was out of scope.
Mayor Andy Foster shared that view and ruled in his favour, saying the paper was about electoral arrangements and whether they should be reviewed.
Day stood up in objection.
"It's a shame that my colleagues have chosen to be disrespectful to a process which is still important. There is a connection, this is about representation."
Rush said he realised on reflection that turning his back was the wrong thing to do and has left a voice message with Day to apologise.
He said he didn't realise they were singing a waiata nor appreciate the significance of what was going on.
Rush said he felt ambushed by his colleagues, who he claimed excluded him from discussions about the amendment last night.
"When you are ambushed, the first thing you want to do is sort of run away and that's kind of the approach I took.
"Obviously there's not much you can really do in a council meeting, so turning around to have a think about how I was going to respond to this is what I was really doing.
"It certainly wasn't any indication of disrespect to local iwi, mana whenua, or Māori generally."
Day later tabled a notice of motion, which the majority of councillors actually signed.
She earlier said she respected councillors may have different opinions, but that some have been expressed in a way that wasn't easy to take.
"So I'd just like to remind you and request that your comments are respectful," she told her colleagues.
"Badly placed comments can cause great harm and offence and be remembered in the years to come. How do you want to be remembered in history?"