'We are truly sorry': Nelson Christmas Parade apologises for Māori Santa

The organisers of a Nelson Christmas parade have apologised for the inclusion of a Māori Santa Claus.

The city's annual Santa Parade was held on Sunday, but the crowds that gathered to watch the festivities didn't see Father Christmas in his traditional red and white costume.

Instead they saw a non-bearded Māori man in a short-sleeved shirt and red korowai, carrying a large fish-hook sceptre as he sat in Santa's traditional sleigh.

Video shot by a bystander showed the Nelson crowd reacting in confusion to the unconventional Santa.

On Monday, the Santa Parade Trust issued an apology for the decision, and acknowledged it may have upset children who turned up to see Santa on Sunday.

"We are truly sorry that the parade did not live up to expectations, and are saddened to hear so many people were disappointed," event director Mark Soper says.

"We definitely have learnt a lot from this, and hope to build on the multi-cultural elements, with more cultural groups participating in the next parade. Regardless, next year will see a return of a traditional Santa Claus."

While Nelson City Council (NCC) provided funding for the parade, it had no creative involvement in the event. The council has met with the Santa Parade Trust to pass on the negative feedback, which will be taken into account for future events.

NCC says councillors and other people involved in the parade have received "significant abuse" from people unhappy with the Santa they saw.

"This is not okay regardless of people's viewpoint," NCC says.

"Sending abusive messages and targeting people who had no input into decisions or organising the event is unacceptable, and not in the spirit of Christmas."

The council has thanked the volunteers who worked on the parade, and said they're working to bring Santa - in more traditional garb - back to Nelson soon.

The decision to portray Santa as a non-bearded man in casual dress with elements of Māori culture has been slammed by many, including The AM Show's Duncan Garner and Hobson's Pledge founder Don Brash.