A decision to make Hawke's Bay Māori wait at least another two years for a dedicated seat at the regional council table has been described as 'weak' and a 'complete failure'.
On Wednesday, Hawke's Bay Regional Council decided to put the controversial question of Māori constituencies to the public at the next local body election.
The constituencies would guarantee Māori representation in dedicated areas.
The decision was described as 'weak' and a 'complete failure' by Cr Rick Barker, and iwi representatives told the council "What you have shown here is not leadership'.
Māori Standing Committee co-chair Michelle McIllroy gave a tearful plea to the councillors to understand how long Māori had waited.
"Our people have been disappointed time and time again and our kaumatua have waited their lifetime."
She told Cr Hinewai Ormsby, who backed the decision, that she had taken the "safe route" by proposing to wait.
"I just saw our people walk out. They're walking out because they think you're giving them up."
Her co-chair Mike Paku said Māori would have been prepared to wait six years to revisit the ward question if it had failed at the poll.
"It is us that will have to wait the six years, not councillors.
"What you have shown here is not leadership. You have backed well away from this."
Deputy chair Barker said the decision was a "complete failure" and "dereliction of leadership".
"I'm utterly opposed against it. I find this weak."
The move had been narrowly voted in after Ormsby put forward a "fall back" option, allowing the council time to petition central government to remove part of the Local Electoral Act 2001.
The offending section allows for the overturning of council decisions to create Māori seats or wards, if a binding referendum, which can be forced by a petition of 5 per cent of voters, is held.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has already signalled she will review this part of the legislation.
Ormsby said it was a divisive issue, and had stirred controversy at several other regional councils across the country.
"This is a very complex and challenging korero to have.
"I have heard the frustrations and disappointment of tangata whenua and the rest of our region, whether or not we've had time to have this conversation."
Her proposal was to put the question of establishing Māori seats to the public at the next local body election, subject to legislative change in the interim, to be preceded by robust engagement and consultation.
The motion narrowly passed with support from councillors Neil Kirton, Craig Foss, Will Foley and Jerf van Beek.
Chair Rex Graham, who along with Barker and councillors Charles Lambert and Martin Williams also voted against the compromise motion, said it was the second time he thought the seats would be established and misjudged it.
The council previously voted against establishing seats in 2017, but brought the topic back at the extraordinary meeting on Wednesday as a decision needed to be notified by Monday, if the seats are to be filled in the 2022 elections.