Auckland Council is refusing to release background papers to a multimillion-dollar funding package for the unelected Maori Statutory Board.

Council officers are citing an upcoming fight in the High Court and commercial sensitivity as reasons for withholding the information from ratepayers, whose money is paying for the board and the legal costs.

Last month, Auckland Mayor Len Brown and finance committee councillors approved a $3.4 million annual budget to run the board. After a public uproar, a full council meeting cut the budget to an indicative $1.9 million.

The board is asking the High Court to reinstate its $3.4 million budget. Depending on the outcome, the unelected nine-member board - set up by the Government as an alternative to Maori seats - will cost Auckland ratepayers between $4.7 million and $8.9 million this council term.

When the Herald sought a copy of all documents relating to the funding agreement and board appointments to council committees, council officers indicated the funding papers would be released.

But after legal advice, the council said it was withholding funding material. "The principal reasons being that it is material that is currently a matter for proceedings in the High Court and/or relates to commercially sensitive information," said council public information manager Bruce Thomas.

Papers show that when talks began between the parties in December, the board believed there was a basis for appropriate funding to enable it to effectively operate.

The law states the board and council must reach a funding agreement that meets the "reasonable" costs of the board's operation, secretariat and independent advisers.

Board chairman David Taipari has said the board believed the proposed costs of $3.4 million were reasonable and the council's decision was probably in breach of the law.

Released papers show the council and the board hold different views about a clause which said the board must appoint up to two members to council committees dealing with natural and physical resources.

In a letter to Mr Brown on February 2, Mr Taipari said the board's wide brief "means it is appropriate that we make appointments to all of the committees". The council recommended board appointments to 11 of the 18 council committees.