A poll on the whether to introduce Maori wards in Whangarei is being held for the first time in at least 15 years.
Councillors will vote tomorrow on whether to introduce Maori representation to the ward system.
The councillors will have four options - to maintain the status quo, to establish Maori wards, to conduct a poll on whether to introduce them for the next election or to conduct the poll as part of the next election.
The council has not conducted a poll on the issue of Maori representation in at least the past 15 years.
Any decision to change the status quo, which would take effect for the 2019 and 2022 elections, must be made by November 23 this year.
The council has sought the opinion of Te Huinga, the council's partner in Te Karearea -
a strategic relationship agreement between hapu of the Whangarei Rohe (area) and the Whangarei District Council - who in turn consulted with hapu to determine a collective position.
Te Huinga indicated their support of and preference to pursue Maori wards in Whangarei.
If the council chooses to introduce Maori seats, it would be in place for the next two elections, and then continue until the council resolves to change it.
However, a public demand for a poll by 5 per cent of electors, 2892 people, would be required to overturn the decision. The demand must be received by February 21.
The council can decide to have a poll on the introduction of Maori wards at any time, but to be in time for the next election, it must be decided by February 21 and the poll would need to be completed by May 21 next year.
The cost of a standalone poll would be about $90,000 with an additional $15,000 for communication and advertising, both which have not been budgeted.
The final option is to hold a poll in conjunction with the next election. This option would cost around $9000 and the advertising costs would be part of the election material which is budgeted for.
If a decision to introduce Maori seats is made, it would be incorporated into the 2018 Representation Review process, which would investigate the necessary changes to re-align ward boundaries and other detail.
For Whangarei - assuming the total of 13 councillors plus a mayor remains - two councillors would be elected from a Maori ward or wards alongside 11 general councillors.