Submissions on dedicated Māori wards for Hastings District Council are open until Wednesday this week.
It would be the local government equivalent of the Māori seats in Parliament, with only those on the Māori roll eligible to vote for Māori ward candidates.
There is limited time for public consultation to be ready for next year's elections, but council staff say they have hit the ground running after the council's decision on April 22 to go forward on the issue.
It will hold a meeting on May 18 to decide whether or not to establish the wards in time for next year's election.
Hastings District Council marketing and communications manager Naomi Ferguson said
it was a tight timeframe for consultation before the central government-imposed deadline of May 21 for public consultation.
"It is a really tight timeframe but because we have a lot of community engagement, we have a fairly good recipe for going out to the community," she said.
"We always utilise mainstream media. We have a really good profile on our social page with around 23,000 followers.
"That's a really great platform for pushing out information, and through promoted posts we get to reach people that are on those social channels that may not follow council.
"The My Voice My Choice platform is the basis for a lot of our consultation submissions and to date that has been really successful, particularly for this consultation - we have had over 1200 submissions."
Hastings District Council's principal iwi adviser Dr James Graham said the unanimous endorsement by councillors to go through a consultation process towards Māori wards, was overdue.
"Our people have been knocking at the door of government - of the Crown, of local government - for 181 years to be involved in decision-making, so that equitable decisions are made not only for Māori but for everyone."
Māori wards have been difficult to establish throughout New Zealand because they can be vetoed by a local poll.
In November, Hawke's Bay Regional Council decided to have such a poll, a special vote on the issue, which would remain in place for two elections.
The decision deeply divided the council, with a poll seen as a good example of democracy being the "tyranny of the majority" because Treaty of Waitangi obligations could be ignored.
But in February, the Government prohibited polls for Māori wards in local government, putting council decisions on Māori wards on a similar footing as other representative decisions made by councils.
The Regional Council revisited the matter and has finished its consultation in time for its decision on May 19 on whether to introduce Māori Wards.
The Regional Council's governance team leader said it was a typical consultation except for the emotion shown by submitters.
Napier's City Council voted to start consultation on Māori wards on the same day as Hastings District Council's vote, but Napier chose to miss the May 21 deadline, so will make a decision in time for the 2025 election.
Wairoa, with a majority Māori population, introduced Māori wards for the 2019 election after a local poll.
Central Hawke's Bay District Council said it had not yet properly discussed Māori wards, but it would be part of the representation review scheduled for 2023.
Mike Paku is on the Māori committees for both Hawke's Bay Regional Council and Hastings District Council.
He said both councils recognised the time was right to move towards establishing Māori wards.
"I think it just reflects where society is today," he said. "We see so much change in regards to cultural awareness of Māori issues.
"We turn on our televisions, we turn on our radios - we are hearing more and more te reo being used.
"We are hearing more and more of our tamariki, our mokopuna - regardless whether they are Māori or non-Māori - using te reo in everyday language.
"For them they see this as being part of a New Zealander, of being Kiwi."
The majority of submissions to Hawke's Bay Regional Council were in favour of Māori wards, as are Hastings submissions so far.
• Hastings District Council is holding a public hui on the matter at the council chambers at 5.30pm on Monday, before the submission deadline of 5pm, Wednesday, May 12.
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