A petition to overturn a Tauranga City Council decision to introduce a Māori ward could soon become futile.
But that hasn't dampened the confidence of petition organisers Concerned Citizens, in which representative Ken Evans said they already had plenty of support.
This week Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she planned to overturn legislation allowing council decisions to be reversed by binding referendum, prompted by a petition of at least 5 per cent of voters. No other council ward is decided on this way.
In 2017, Green MP Marama Davidson presented a bill to abolish the legislation, but this fell over when National Act and New Zealand First voted against it.
On Tuesday, Mahuta promised legislation soon to remove the anomaly that she said held back widespread Māori representation.
"It's one of the priorities on my list ... I've got a few areas I would like to focus on in the local government portfolio. They are all ready to go once Government is formed," she said.
Evans said, in his opinion: "I think that is a huge statement. She can't create the law on her own. It has to go through caucus, then has to go through committee."
On August 24, Tauranga City Council voted 6 - 4 to establish a Māori ward.
Evans said Concerned Citizens group banded together about a month ago to start the petition.
"We are a group of people who are concerned, and said 'let's get together and do something about this'," Evans said.
"We have a belief that basically New Zealanders should be all the same and treated the same by our governance. We don't believe in separation in our groups of society."
If successful, the petition must be notified to the electoral officer before February 2021.
The group has campaigned for the petition through doorknocking, visiting businesses, and advertising.
Evans said he did not know how many signatures the petition had already gained but said the group had attracted plenty of support, some from people and groups such as lobby group Hobson's Pledge.
In 2017, Western Bay of Plenty District Council voted 9 - 3 for Maori wards, but a petition that prompted a $70,000 binding poll saw the vote thrown out.
In recent years, the council has been joined by others - Whakatane, New Plymouth, Palmerston North - to have voted for Māori wards only to have them abolished by public referendum.
Last week, Kaipara and Ruapehu district councils also voted to establish Māori wards for the 2022 election. Meanwhile, Northland Regional Council is being forced into a by-election after a councillor resigned over its proposed Māori ward.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Wairoa District Council and the Waikato Regional Council are the only territorial authorities in New Zealand to have Māori ward seats.
Bay of Plenty Māori ward councillors Matemoana McDonald, Toi Iti and Te Taru White said earlier this year they believed the seats had merit and worked for the betterment of the council and all of its constituents. They were supported in their views by their colleagues.
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said at the time of the city council vote that Māori wards represented one-fifth of the city's population who did "not have a voice at Tauranga City Council".