Protests marked the inaugural meeting of the newly elected Tauranga City Council.

In more fallout from councillor Andrew Hollis' Treaty of Waitangi comments, there were walkouts, a boycott, a silent protest and - in the most dramatic incident - a protester ripped newly hung Treaty posters off the wall of the council chamber.

It all happened over the course of a two-hour meeting set to the background music of chants by council staff striking in the street below over pay grievances.

More than 100 people packed the chamber for the meeting. They included new mayor Tenby Powell and the 10 councillors as well as supporters, council staff and members of the public.

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The ceremonial pōwhiri was completed without incident.

In his speech, kaumatua Huikakahu Kawe welcomed "the chosen ones" representing Tauranga Moana.

He said it was good to see the Treaty "proudly displayed" in the chamber and while debate was good, dialogue was better.

The proceedings, however, went pear-shaped during a short break between the pōwhiri and official start of the inaugural meeting.

As people milled out of the chamber, a man draped in a tino rangatiratanga flag walked in and ripped the three Treaty posters off the wall, as people stood agape.

The protester, Hayden Henry of Matapihi, told media he was "standing up for what I believe in, the Treaty of Waitangi, partnership".

Hayden Henry speaks to media after tearing the Treaty of Waitangi posters off the wall. Photo / Andrew Warner
Hayden Henry speaks to media after tearing the Treaty of Waitangi posters off the wall. Photo / Andrew Warner

He did not say his protest was targeted only at Hollis, but "disrespectful" statements about the Treaty on social media in general.

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Powell said it was clear emotions were running high, and while the incident was "disappointing", it reflected the feelings of a sector of the community.

Hollis - who has been unapologetic for his comments - said he supported the right to protest, as he did the right to freedom of speech.

"It would have been better if he could have done it without destroying public property, though," Hollis said.

Treaty of Waitangi posters are re-hung after being torn down by a protester. Photo / Andrew Warner
Treaty of Waitangi posters are re-hung after being torn down by a protester. Photo / Andrew Warner

The meeting resumed, beginning with Powell being sworn in, followed by declarations and speeches by each councillor.

As Hollis gave his declaration, several iwi leaders and at least one council staffer walked out of the chamber, returning when he was done.

Then, during Hollis' speech, Māori historian Buddy Mikaere stood for the duration in silence and pointed to the Treaty posters, which had been re-hung.

Buddy Mikaere points to the Treaty in protest during the speech of councillor Andrew Hollis. Photo / Andrew Warner
Buddy Mikaere points to the Treaty in protest during the speech of councillor Andrew Hollis. Photo / Andrew Warner

In his speech, Hollis said the community had not been listened to but "at least now there is somebody who is not afraid to speak their mind".

"You may have heard some things over the last few days, some people tried to shut my voice down, and they are still trying to do it now."

Hollis had the support of some in the audience, who called out "sit down Buddy" and applauded Hollis' speech.

It is understood other iwi leaders boycotted the meeting altogether in protest.

The full council with mayor Tenby Powell in the mayoral cloak and chains. Photo / Andrew Warner
The full council with mayor Tenby Powell in the mayoral cloak and chains. Photo / Andrew Warner

The red cloak returns - but the hat is a mystery

As well as the mayoral chains, new Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell was draped in a red, fur-trimmed cloak during the inaugural meeting.

"It's been a long time since I have been dressed by someone," he quipped to the crowd.

Powell told the Bay of Plenty Times he understood the cloak had not been used in 15 years because the past two mayors chose not to wear it.

He said dusting it off was part of his push to bring back some council traditions.

"There was a hat as well but that's gone missing. I have no desire to replace it."

Powell said it was not about "pomp and pageantry" but "respect for traditions" and "embracing the city's history".

His wife, Sharon Hunter, received the mayoress chains.

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