The head of Wellington's multi-billion dollar transport plan has been accused of making a sexist comment to a local businesswoman.
Let's Get Wellington Moving programme director Andrew Body told the woman, who the Herald has chosen not to name: "You look better in the paper than you do in real life".
Body made the comment at the conclusion of the formal part of a stakeholder meeting for more than 70 businesses back in July.
In attendance was the who's who of Wellington's retail and property owners.
The meeting was held following concerns they were not properly consulted over proposed changes to the city's Golden Mile.
In a statement, Body said he acknowledged the comment he made was careless.
"I have apologised to the person involved and would like to express again how truly sorry I am."
The emailed apology has been released under the Official Information Act (OIA).
"In trying to break the ice I was overly flippant and I apologise. I feel absolutely terrible that it was taken as anything other than a compliment on a great photo," it said.
The woman confirmed she received the apology and had accepted it.
She told the Herald the comment was "utterly inappropriate".
"He probably wouldn't say that to a man, would he?
"If they're trying to encourage engagement, that's a pretty strange way of going about open communication."
The woman said she didn't want to make it personal, and only spoke to media after being approached.
"I just want the best outcome for Wellington."
One meeting attendee said he considered the comment to be sexist.
"It's just unbelievable that could have been raised in any kind of public forum, that's out of the ark.
"It was so disappointing given the fact that you had people there contributing their time, energy, and passion for the city and for that to happen, it was just a horrible situation."
Another attendee, who was sitting close to the woman at the time, agreed and said the situation was "icky".
"It was a weird thing to do because it was a meeting where effectively these stakeholders were complaining about engagement.
"I think using her appearance as a way to undermine her is a classic sexist attack."
Body alerted members of the LGWM partnership board to the incident after media queries, correspondence released under the OIA revealed.
Wellington City Council chief executive and board member Barbara McKerrow then called for an urgent meeting of members to discuss its response to Body.
"I take issues such as this seriously, especially given the high profile of this project in a sensitive decision-making environment," she said in an email.