The news Tauranga City Council is introducing a Māori ward in the city ahead of the 2022 elections should be welcomed.
The motion to establish the ward yesterday passed 6-4 at a council meeting.
The council also voted 8-3 to give voting rights to tangata whenua representatives on four council committees.
The move would guarantee Māori representation on the council but could be challenged via a public-initiated petition.
In my view, a petition to challenge any decision to establish a Māori ward is narrow-minded.
As Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey put it, as a minority population with significant land holdings in Tauranga, Māori needed "some sort of guaranteed representation at council level".
But if you ask Margaret Murray-Benge, a Western Bay of Plenty District councillor who opposed her council's bid to introduce Māori wards, "Māori have got to be like the rest of us and stand for election."
The problem is that's not working.
It has been more than 20 years since Tauranga elected a person from the Māori community to the council.
But it's not for lack of trying.
Māori can successfully win seats on councils but if they don't, where are they represented?
Seventeen per cent of the Tauranga population is Māori, according to Stats NZ. Yet there has been no guaranteed representation on the council for tangata whenua. The council had the chance to fix that and they grasped it. Overturning that decision would be a shame.
Rotorua goes some way to guaranteeing Māori input through a partnership model.
Te Arawa board members are nominated to key council committees with voting rights and the full council moves committee recommendations.
Rotorua Lakes Council is a diverse one. There are two people under 30, four of Māori descent, two of Asian descent and one of Indian descent. There are five women.
It has achieved this diversity without Māori wards but could go a step further towards ensuring even more Māori representation by including a ward.
The same should have been done in Whakatāne, where 43 per cent of the population is Māori.
The district council there tried to introduce Māori wards in 2017, voting to do so.
But it was overturned by a public poll on the matter, in which 55 per cent of the public opposed it. In my view, this was a step back.
The creation of a Māori ward is a no-brainer. A council should represent its people.
There is no better way to do that.