Hawke's Bay mayor Peter Butler has offended Ngati Kahungunu, partly by singling out tribal leader Ngahiwi Tomoana in comments made about the controversial Ruataniwha water storage scheme.
Mr Butler said the tribe's runanga chair, Ngahiwi Tomoana, and his colleagues should be banned from any employment relating to the dam, at the Tukituki River, if went ahead.
Ngati Kahungunu said it was disappointed by the mayor's comments and questioned whether Mr Butler could be a trusted community leader.
The Hawke's Bay tribe said it has supported kaupapa or projects relating to the Tukituki River, such as water safety wananga for rangatahi, for the past 10 years.
It said people who attended the Tukituki Board of Inquiry at Matahiwi Marae were supplied kai, whitebait, flounder, eels and fish from the very waters it was seeking to protect.
Mr Butler said his remarks could have been the result of being frustrated over possible delays to the water storage scheme.
He made the comments after reading a headline in the local paper saying the project could be further delayed.
The article indicated Ngati Kahungunu feedback to the board of inquiry could hold up progress on the proposal, he said.
The Board of Inquiry into the Ruataniwha Dam at the Tukituki River project this week wrapped up six weeks of public hearings and will begin work on a draft report.