Racism in Rotorua still exists but iwi leaders say while the city has come a long way from a racist past, more work needs to be done to address the issue.
The comments come after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the United States, which has sparked protests against racism, police brutality and a host of related issues around the world, including in New Zealand.
Statues of historical figures with links to slavery and colonialism have been pulled down.
Last week, authorities in Hamilton removed a statue of the city's namesake - a British captain who fought in the Battle of Gate Pā - at the request of iwi, with renewed calls to rename the Waikato city.
Rotorua kaumātua Sir Toby Curtis said Rotorua was exemplary in the constant work it was putting in to listen to and take on Māori voices.
He said 40 years ago, it was a different story, with Māori "walked over".
"Things have changed since then ... There is a strong will and desire to get it right, both Māori and Pākehā."
"As far as I'm concerned, officials in Rotorua are excellent."
He said the police were excellent and the council was doing a "wonderful job" of linking with hapū, whānau and iwi.
"And if things go wonky, we have a talk and see how we can get it right," which Curtis said was a far cry from Māori input being ignored.
He said it was not to say that racism did not exist, but it now did not interfere with the goal of working together for the good of the whole community.
Curtis said the council's work in making Rotorua the first bilingual city in New Zealand had a positive impact.
He had recently been to three funerals of well-known Pākehā people in Rotorua who had died and Māori phrases were used.
"It was wonderful, I've never seen that before.
"As far as I'm concerned, being a bilingual city has given people the licence to do things in a way they don't have to be apologetic about. They can just do it because this is what Rotorua is about."
Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua Monty Morrison said institutionalised racism has been part of New Zealand "for a long time".
He said he had "certainly" experienced racism in his younger years, and now devoted himself to overcoming racism in society.
He said opinions of Māori were often disregarded, which he saw played out in schools towards Māori students when he was a teacher.
"I have the philosophy that together is better ... actively working towards overcoming [racism] is the way to go."
Morrison said there had been good attempts to combat racism, but more work needed to be done.
"Sometimes for non-Māori, they're quite surprised because they live a life that's different ... they think what they experience is what it is for everybody.
Rotorua councillor Fisher Wang, who was born in Rotorua, said he had been told to "go back home," and spoken to like he was a child as a result of his race.
"A kid younger than me, probably primary-aged, ran up to me and told me to go back to where I came from," he said. It happened last year.
"That was really shocking."
On other occasions, people would speak down to him before he had a chance to say a word, but instantly change their tone when they heard his New Zealand accent.
Wang dealt with racist comments during last year's election campaign when someone in a car driving past yelled: "We're not voting for ******* Chinamen while he was putting up two billboards.
This year, he was approached in the supermarket and received racist messages through Facebook during the initial stages of Covid-19 about sending the Chinese "back to where they came from".
He said while Rotorua was a community that embraced inclusiveness, racists and xenophobes were in every community.
He said the Black Lives Matter helped educate people on their daily actions on how something, which might not seem like a big deal was actually rude, racists or insensitive.
"It helps squash the hatred as much as possible."
He said it was disappointing that global protests were needed to highlight how the social system was still unfair to certain races and groups.
"There are a lot of people that are very inclusive, understanding and open," but they did not realise the society they lived worked in their favour.
"Unless we accept that we do have these issues and we need to change, there will always be the systemic racism and privileged."
Multicultural Rotorua president Margriet Theron said migrants found it particularly difficult to secure a job.
"Whether that's because employers are looking for people with New Zealand experience or whether it's racism, I don't know," she said.
The society held courses for migrants to help equip them for work in New Zealand, and will start their English speaking course in the next few weeks.
Diane Dairy owner Sukhjit Singh moved to New Zealand in 1989 and said people had called out "Bin Laden" in the streets several years ago, but has not experienced anything besides the odd customer who would throw out a racial slur.