Palmerston North ratepayers are forking out $140,000 for a referendum on a Māori ward, much to the frustration of the mayor.

Māori wards were developed by Parliament as a means to give Māori representation and a voice in local government.

In October last year, the Palmerston North City Council voted for a Māori ward to be established.

However, in February 2018 a petition was presented to the council requiring a referendum on the issue.

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Palmerston North City mayor Grant Smith said there have been rumours such as the Māori ward would cost the ratepayers more money.

"Absolute rubbish," Smith said. "It will be exactly what is in our governance budget now."

He said people had also been saying they feared a Māori takeover.

"There'll be 15 councillors around the table. One or two of them might have a Māori voice. What is wrong with that?

"There's no takeover in that. In fact, that's called good diverse democracy and governance in my view.

"It's been quite a reasonable price to pay for this debate, but at the end of the day, it's democracy and it's a healthy discussion to have."

The mayor was less pleased with the expense incurred by the petition.

"Unfortunately, the referendum has cost Palmerston North City almost $140,000," Smith said.

Smith said Māori were around the table in any other debate from central government to the district health boards, so it made sense to have Māori included in the local authority decision-making process.

It was the democratic right of the ratepayer to have a referendum, Smith said, but he questioned the threshold which dictated a referendum.

"To have 5 per cent tell the other 95 per cent we're going to do this, I don't think that's quite right. It needs to have some sort of mandate.

"Five per cent to me isn't a mandate that we hold a referendum, 10-20 per cent maybe."

The polls are now open to vote for or against Palmerston North and Manawatū's Māori wards. Polls close on Saturday, May 19.

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