Although Maori wards will not be established in Napier, its council has been encouraged to ensure Maori representation grows.

Yesterday the Napier City Council agreed to not establish Maori wards for the next two local elections, by accepting a recommendation from their Community Services Committee.

Maori wards work by giving those on the Maori electoral roll the opportunity to vote for Maori ward members, while those on the general roll vote for general elected members.

There could have been two Maori ward members. However consultation showed 78 per cent of 477 surveyed residents were against the idea.

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This included the Ngati Parau Hapu Trust, and Ngati Kahungunu iwi inc. chair Ngahiwi Tomoana, who argued there were "talented and capable Maori that can stand on their own merits as general candidates".

Nelson Park ward councillor Maxine Boag was the only one to vote against not establishing the wards, yesterday and at October's committee meeting.

"If we care about fair representation we can see that our current system doesn't work. It's all very well us saying the problem can be solved by more Maori standing as candidates, but it's not the case because many have stood and they have lost."

Although he voted against them, yesterday Napier's first Maori councillor Apiata Tapine said work was needed so the question of Maori wards was met with a "genuine response" from a community who understood the impacts of this decision.

"Rather than just asking should we, or shouldn't we have brown or white people at the table, because that's essentially what the question is."

Mr Tapine added he ran for council last year as a Napier resident promoting his skills.

"From my experience had I run and promoted myself as a Maori then the result would have been very similar to all the previous Maori who ran before me, I would not be sitting at this table."

Mayor Bill Dalton said this was a "very, very difficult" issue, noting there had been a 50/50 split amongst Maori surveyed respondents on whether to establish the wards.

The high number of Maori Hastings District Councillors showed Napier could have more around the table, "we've just got to get out there and encourage Maori people to stand."

A report before council noted the work it was undertaking on its Maori strategies was "seen as very positive and a way of ensuring there is adequate representation and a voice".

It was important to encourage more Maori to stand as candidates in the local government elections, however even if there were more Maori elected onto council, this would not replace its obligations to rangatiratanga.

"The greatest value may be in involving Maori early on in what council is developing".

Nationwide there has been a limited uptake of Maori wards, with more councils using Maori standing committees and iwi partnership models.

Only three councils have Maori Wards, including Wairoa District Council. In April, Hastings District Council decided not to introduce Maori wards.