There will be no Maori constituencies established by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council - for now.
At a meeting yesterday the council had the opportunity to establish one or two constituencies from the 2019 elections, to hold a $230,000 poll in the next 89 days on the matter, or not establish them.
The regional council is the last of Hawke's Bay's five local councils to discuss Maori representation, as they are required to do this year under legislation.
Yesterday Māori Committee Deputy Chair Mike Paku told the council the "overwhelming outcome" of four Hui-a-Iwi held on the matter "was that Maori wish to see Maori representation at this council table".
Although they appreciated being involved with council committees, these did not give Maori a voice "at the final decision-making time".
"We believe we have earned the right to sit at this table. We believe we have demonstrated over time again and again the value that we can bring to the region," he said.
"We believe that our added beliefs and our closeness to the environment will enhance the decision making of this council."
There was a long debate over the issue, as councillors split with four in support of establishing the constituencies, and five only supporting this if a poll was held in conjunction with the next general election.
Council deputy and meeting chair Rick Barker urged his fellow councillors to exercise leadership, arguing the existing system was not working, as the council had only had one Maori councillor, or "voice".
"I think its time for us to stand for those people who haven't had a voice, for those who have never been at this council table to exercise a vote."
Those who supported a poll expressed concern about a lack of public consultation, including with the wider Hawke's Bay Maori population - with about 60 people attending the hui compared to the 28,000 on the Maori roll.
Although councillor Fenton Wilson said Maori representation was "well overdue", he argued for a poll based on his experience with the Wairoa District Council's recent decision to establish Maori wards - the only area in Hawke's Bay to do so.
His community was "colour-blind", with a 61 per cent Maori population, but this decision was "already starting to tear that community apart".
While the decision to establish three Maori, and three general seats echoed the current makeup of the council, "it was the Pakeha vote that put that in place and now Maori aren't happy".
Councils vote to establish the constituencies was lost by one. However councillors then became embroiled in another debate, with neither of the other options - to not establish the constituencies, or to hold a $230,000 poll -appearing suitable.
In the end, council agreed not to establish the constituencies for the 2019 elections - this was voted against by councillors Peter Bevan, Tom Belford and chair Rex Graham who joined the meeting via teleconference.
This resolution was made with councillors knowing they could revisit the issue with a poll in conjunction with the general election.
Had council agreed to establish Maori constituencies the number of them, their boundary and names, and the number of elected representatives would have been determined through council's 2018 Representation Review.
Two regional councils - Bay of Plenty and Waikato - have established Maori constituencies.