The mayor of the Gold Coast has been forced to apologise for a “joke” aimed at Chinese people at a press conference.

Mayor Tom Tate was speaking in Townsville on Monday, discussing natural disaster management and what the Gold Coast could learn from North Queensland.

He delved into how displaced victims could be made to feel in temporary accommodation, pointing out that pets could come with people too.

He then followed it up with a racist jab about Chinese people, feeding into offensive stereotypes.

“You wouldn’t want to put a Chinese next to someone who’s got a cat, you know,” he said.

“She might be breakfast.”

Tate has served as the mayor of Gold Coast since 2012 and has been re-elected twice.

People were quick to point out the racist joke on social media.

“A horrible bad joke and also OLD,” one person remarked on Twitter.

“Is he freaking serious?” said another, while one woman said the mayor “has to go”.

However, by Monday afternoon, the mayor had issued an apology for his remarks, chalking it up to his “clumsy sense of humour”, 7News reported.

“There was no intention to cause offence, but now, having thought through what was a poor joke, I sincerely apologise,” the statement said.