Far North District Council has today voted in favour of Māori wards.
"I'm so excited about the future," Moko Tepania, Far North District Council (FNDC) councillor said after the meeting.
The council voted 7:3 to bring in Māori wards after an intense, emotion-filled debate in a packed Kaikohe council chambers that spilled out into the council foyer and beyond to the neighbouring Kaikohe War Memorial Hall.
Tepania forced the extraordinary council meeting after a notice of motion to his council that it once again considered Māori wards.
The council in October voted 5:5 in a split vote which meant a motion for the wards failed.
Mayor John Carter voted against the council bringing in Māori wards when FNDC considered the option six months ago. But he today changed tack, voting in their favour.
"I have not been against Māori wards. What worried me was the timing," Carter said after the meeting when asked why he had changed his position.
Councillor Mate Radich also shifted from voting six months ago against the FNDC bringing in the wards.
Their shift resulted in today's 7:3 vote with Councillors David Clendon, Rachel Smith, Kelly Stratford, Tepania and John Vujcich voting for the wards, as they had done in October. Smith seconded today's motion.
Deputy mayor Ann Court, Dave Collard and Felicity Foy voted against them today.
The council went a step further with its vote, also deciding to look at its current council committee structure, membership and delegations to "ensure iwi/hapū membership to council committees, delegations and board committees".
Iwi and hapū from around Northland attended the meeting which saw people watching the meeting on screens outside the chambers.
Tepania said the outcome was more than he had expected, with iwi/hapū to be more involved in the council representation.
The vote initially appeared as though it might not happen after Carter moved an amendment to Tepania's motion.
This was to instead poll Far North residents at the time of the next local government elections in 2022. But his amendment was lost.
The decision means Māori wards or constituencies for the top of New Zealand from about Topuni near Kaiwaka to Cape Reinga.
Kaipara District Council, Whangārei District Council and Northland Regional Council all about six months ago voted to bring in Māori seats.
Today's decision was greeted with rapture by tangata whenua present with tears, hugs and spontaneously breaking into the Ngāpuhi waiata Ngā Puāwai ō Ngāpuhi, also known as Maranga mai.
Kelly Klink, among a busload of Māori ward supporters who travelled from Whangārei for the meeting, said today's decision was a great step forward.
Carter said there was now much work to be done.