'I stuffed up': Mayor apologises after awarding blackface float 2nd place

It's been revealed that the Mayor of South Taranaki was one of the judges who awarded a blackface float second place in a Hawera parade.

The Hawera Mt View Lions Club's float at the Taranaki town's A&P parade on Friday evening featured half-a-dozen people with their faces painted black, surrounded by black and white balloons.

They were given $300 in prize money - leading to an uproar and calls for vigilante justice.

Ross Dunlop admits he made a mistake and has offered a formal apology.

"I stuffed up," he told Stuff.

"I made a big mistake this weekend which I am very sorry for and have learnt from it."

Mr Dunlop says he "wasn't paying much attention" to the floats and just thought the Lions should be acknowledged for the "good work" they do.

The club has since lost its second place ranking and won't be given any money. But it's unclear how the blackface float was allowed to enter in the first place, as the parade entry form prohibits floats deemed unsuitable by the Egmont A&P association from participating.

Blackface originated in minstrel shows in the 1800s, where it perpetuated negative racial stereotypes of black people. As such, modern-day usage is highly contentious.

In a since-deleted Facebook post containing a number of spelling errors, the Hawera Mt View Lions said it was "by no means meant to be derogatory as a racist commentary, rather a celebration of all cultures".