Whangarei councillors have opted not to introduce Maori wards, but have not closed the door on holding a poll on the issue at the next election.

The debate went on for more than half an hour yesterday as councillors offered their opinions on the issue.

There were four options on the table: take no action, introduce wards, hold a stand-alone poll, or hold a poll at the next election.

Mayor Sheryl Mai was a firm supporter of introducing Maori wards. She said about a quarter of Whangarei's population was Maori and that was not reflected in the council makeup.

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Ms Mai and councillor Anna Murphy agreed that they had gone through the necessary consultation with Te Huinga, a group of hapu representatives who had indicated they wanted to see the wards pursued, and the council should follow their wishes.

Sharon Morgan and Cherry Hermon threw their weight behind the wards too.

But Crichton Christie introduced an amendment to stay with the status quo. He later said he supported a poll at the next election.

Greg Innes wanted to see the $105,000 it would cost to hold a stand-alone poll put into council's strategic partnership with Te Karearea to "really make it work properly".

Shelley Deeming felt by giving a special avenue to a sector, it undermined the ability and capability of Maori as a race.

Stu Bell said the council had asked Maori, but had not asked non-Maori "and we are the council for the whole district". Sue Glen agreed with councillor Bell.

Tricia Cutforth said she wanted to see co-governance, and would prefer to look at putting resources into Maori engagement.

Vince Cocurullo said he did not like the idea of stopping people on the Maori role from being able to vote for anyone in the ward where they live.

Staff told councillors they had until February 21 next year to make a decision on whether to hold a poll as part of the 2019 elections.

Ms Mai spoke strongly against holding a poll, as she said the population skew would be an unfair balance.

Cr Cocurullo said she could not assume how people would vote but Ms Mai said she was making that statement based on the results of other such polls from around the country.