Western Bay of Plenty District Council has voted 'yes' to getting Maori ward representation.
Councillors voted today 9-3 to establish one or more Māori wards to enable Māori representation around the council table in the 2019 and 2022 local body elections.
Today's decision follows a unanimous vote by the council's Tauranga Moana/Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum earlier this month recommended the move.
Margaret Murray-Benge, Kevin Marsh and Mike Lally were the three councillors who voted against the idea.
Murray-Benge said she intended to challenge the decision with a poll.
Mayor Garry Webber said the Western Bay District's constituency has one of the highest percentages of Māori among local authorities in New Zealand.
"We have 11 iwi and 74 hapū within our rohe and while no representation system is perfect it needs to represent the people it affects. Today's bold step by council recognises this and paves the way for fairer representation."
Webber said the council accepted not everyone would agree with the decision, however, the position and role of tangata whenua in New Zealand's political, economic and environmental landscape is as strong as it has ever been.
"When you take this into account, along with a district that is heading into a post-Treaty of Waitangi settlement environment, it is very clear that Māori should be around the council decision-making table."
The council's Tauranga Moana/Te Arawa ki Takutai Partnership Forum co-chair Reon Tuana said Māori wards were a natural progression would give iwi a stronger voice to enable an even more focused effort to improve the well-being of tangata whenua.
"The forum members acknowledge this brave decision of council and we ask the people of the district also to be brave and give tangata whenua a chance to show the value this kaupapa will bring.
The council must publicly notify its decision by November 30. If five per cent or more of the district's electors demand a poll, the issue will be determined by a public poll.
A demand for a poll must be received by February 21, 2018 and a poll held by May 21, 2018. If there is no demand for a poll, the council's decision is final.
The final number of Māori wards in the Western Bay (one or two) will be determined during next year's Representation Review process.
Māori wards have been established in Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional councils. Wairoa District Council will have Māori wards at the 2019 elections as a result of a public poll. Palmerston North City Council, Manawatu and Whakatane district councils have adopted resolutions for Māori representation but are subject to poll the provision. If Māori wards are established they must remain for two triennial elections.