A Waikato Regional Council chairman who blamed Māori for "usurping and jeopardising" the future development of the country is being called out for his "disrespectful" and "racist" comments.
One of his own councillors also wants him axed as chair.
Russ Rimmington spoke about how "the Māori " will "usurp" and jeopardise" the future development of "our country" by having control of the water, during a Three Waters seminar at the end of October run by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ)
"The Māori will actually control the water in the Waikato from Lake Taupō to Port Waikato and that means if you want to get a consent in time - not immediately but they are 50 per cent there.
"That means if Fonterra, horticulturalist, me as a farmer - I am a 400ha farm - we are going to be at the beck and call. Not now but in 10 years' time. And that's really - I believe - going to usurp and jeopardise the future development of our great country."
He went on to tell fellow mayors and chief executives on the Zoom call of his difficulties dealing with the five river iwi.
LGNZ Te Maruata chairperson Bonita Bigham has laid a formal complaint to fellow Te Maruata Ropu Whakahaere member and regional councillor Tipa Mahuta, calling on Rimmington to apologise to iwi and his own council for what she described as offensive, derogatory and racist comments.
Bigham, whose LGNZ subcommittee membership includes Māori elected members or iwi appointees to local government roles, believed he also owed Minister of local government Nanaia Mahuta an apology for saying the water reform would lead to the downfall of the country.
"I continue to be highly disappointed that the chairperson of a council with longstanding Māori constituencies either truly believes his own rhetoric or is intentionally race baiting - both of which are unbecoming of a person in a position of leadership and influence within our sector and wider Waikato community," her letter said.
She felt his distressing comments - due to his position as chair - could be assumed to reflect the views of the entire Waikato Regional Council, however despite it not being made clear at the time she had since learned they were his just his own.
"Mr Rimmington's comments are indicative of views that are antiquated and obsolete in a modern Aotearoa which is moving forward without, and despite, people like him who feel their power base is being threatened."
Bigham sought advice from LGNZ about how to address Rimmington's behaviour and LGNZ's national council met last month and resolved to call out behaviour it saw as problematic.
If there was any usurping or jeopardisation of the future of the country, then it would be due to out dated and irrelevant attitudes like his, she added.
She told the Herald some other people in the webinar did make discreet references to his comments being inappropriate and she was grateful for that.
As of this afternoon, she said she had not received an apology from Rimmington which she said would be easy to gauge whether it was genuine and whether he understood how deeply cutting the comments were.
Councillor Mahuta yesterday forwarded the letter dated November 20 to Rimmington and the other regional councillors, asking for Rimmington to respond.
The Herald understands that was the first time councillors were made aware of his comments.
Rimmington told the Herald he had already made formal apologies to Bigham, the five river iwi and minister Mahuta. He planned to apologise to his own council at a full council meeting next Thursday.
He would not be drawn about whether he thought the comments were racist.
"I've apologised unreservedly and that's my position."
He went onto say sorry for any racism or slur that had been taking from it and any hurt caused from those comments.
Regional councillors had signalled to him they would be tabling a notice of motion requiring him to get a better understanding of the Three Waters Reform and to make apologies. Rimmington said he had actioned these this morning.
But councillor Fred Lichtwark, who has faced his own code of conduct complaints over behaviour towards elected members, is now calling for Rimmington to be removed as chair and for his deputy Kataraina Hodge to assume the role.
He said he did not share Rimmington's views and the council needed to seek advice from the same lawyer who investigated his code of conduct complaints to save face of council and iwi.
"I represent the Waikato district which is the power base of Māori and I feel deeply offended about what's been said and I'd like to feel we can re-establish working relationships with our Treaty partners."
A recording of the webinar was available for all LGNZ members to access and shows that more than 100 mayors, chairs and council executives attended the meeting.
Local Government chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said: "There is no place for racist rhetoric, whether it's direct, implied, or veiled. Several attendees called out the commentary at the time, saying it was unwelcome, and that iwi/Māori involvement in local government is critical and valued."