Whakatāne District Council has voted unanimously to establish Māori wards for the next two local body electoral cycles.
The decision comes after 21 groups and individuals spoke in the public forum at today's council meeting, sharing their views on Māori ward establishment.
Waiariki MP and co-leader of Te Paati Māori Rawiri Waititi welcomed the Whakatāne news.
"The establishment of the Māori ward in time for the next round of local body elections assures whānau in Whakatāne, that their voices, wishes and needs will be represented in their council," Waititi said.
"This announcement is not only a win for Māori, but for all people who are committed to a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa, that moves us together as one.
"For too long now, we have been kept on the backbencher on our own whenua. We have fought for representation, to see ourselves within these establishments that say they cater to us. Today, Māori in Mataatua [Whakatāne area] finally have their voices heard.
"Over the last few weeks, we have seen councils across the motu establish Māori wards in time for the next election. Often, having to revisit their decision due to ... legislation that allowed a 5 per cent petition to overturn it. Dismantling these dated, colonialist rules finally allow us to be heard.
"Tomorrow, Rotorua will vote on the establishment of Māori wards, and I urge them to take on the advice of Te Tatau o Te Arawa and join the movement towards a Te Tiriti centric Aotearoa."
Whakatāne District Council will now consider Māori wards as part of the council's representation review.
Councils must review their representation arrangements at least once every six years.
The review asks how many elected members there should be in a district and how they should be elected. It considers wards, their boundaries, names, and how many councillors are elected to each. A representation review is also an opportunity to review the number of community boards, the number of members and subdivision boundaries.
A community engagement programme will now take place as part of the development of an initial proposal on the structure for elected representation, the council said.
The initial proposal then goes through a full consultation and public submission process ahead of the council meeting on October 28 to adopt the final proposal. Public notification and an appeal period will follow.
The opportunity to again consider the establishment of Māori wards followed the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill which was passed at Parliament in February this year. The changes to the Act removed any options for establishing Māori wards other than the council resolving to have Māori wards.
Previously, local polls with five or more percent of the voting population could overturn a council's decision to introduce Māori wards, which Whakatāne District Council experienced in 2018.