People have voted against the establishment of Māori wards on the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
Results of a binding poll were announced on Saturday after the council asked electors whether they would support a Māori seat for the district.
Progress results showed 78.2 per cent voted against Māori wards while 21.5 per cent voted in support. Voter turnout was around 40 per cent of eligible electors.
Ngai te Rangi's Reon Tuanau was disappointed but not surprised, "going by track record of Māori wards in New Zealand".
"But hey, we had to give it a go. Our people wanted this and that's the reasons why we campaigned so hard."
Tuanau said he believed there were still people who "weren't too clued up" on understanding Māori wards.
"I think when they hear things like Māori wards, they think 'Māori takeover'. But all we were asking for was a Māori seat at the table to better represent our people. I thought it would help give us a bit of a boost to life us up a bit more."
In November, councillors voted 9-3 in favour of the wards as part of a six-yearly representation review. However, a petition launched by councillors who voted against the wards sparked a $70,000 binding poll. In April, electors were asked to vote, with voting closing on Saturday.
Tuanau said despite the results, the support from councillors who originally voted yes gave him hope for a brighter future.
In 2012, the same debate gained a split vote with the casting vote going against.
"We are getting closer. I believe it's no longer a matter of if but when," Tuanau said.
Mayor Garry Webber said there were different degrees of support within the Western Bay community. However, a voter turnout of 40 per cent was significant.
"It's the public decision and we have to respect that regardless ... you are there as their representative."
Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge "who worked hard to make sure the poll went the way it did" was pleased.
Murray-Benge said in her opinion, a Maori ward could have lead to "apartheid" New Zealand "and I'm not about to stand by and let that happen".
"People did not want it. I think we are heading in the right direction."
Final results on the Western Bay of Plenty District Council Māori wards decision will be available today , once all valid special votes have been counted. The official public notice of final results will be published on Wednesday .