Northlanders wanting to overturn their council's decision to bring in Māori wards could find their plans scuppered as the Minister of Local Government looks to change the Local Electoral Act.
"It's one of the priorities on my list," Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
Three of Northland's four councils have for the first time voted to bring in Māori wards.
But the decisions can be overturned under the Local Electoral Act (LEA) if 5 per cent of their electors demand a poll on the decision.
Mahuta is promising legislation change to remove the polling requirement she describes as an anomaly that has held back widespread Māori representation.
She is being sworn in as Local Government Minister on Friday, with more around the details of legislation change to remove this polling requirement to come after that.
Mahuta said she was "all ready to go once the Government is formed".
There are 64,600 Northlanders who identify as Māori among the region's 180,000 locals.
It has one of New Zealand's highest Māori populations. About 36 per cent of Northlanders identify as Māori, compared with 16.5 per cent nationally.
Kaipara and Whangārei district councils along with Northland Regional Council have in the past two weeks voted to bring in the wards/constituencies for the 2022 and 2025 local government elections.
Their decisions, along with notifying registered electors they have the right to demand a poll on the decision, must now be publicly advertised.
The Local Government Act requires local bodies to review their representation every six years and to acknowledge their Treaty of Waitangi obligations by considering Māori wards. But the LGA also allows such a move to be challenged if a poll is demanded by 5 per cent of registered voters. This isn't a requirement for general council wards.
Polls consistently overturn councils' decisions in favour of Māori wards - all but one of New Zealand's last nine polls have done this. This means the wards can't be considered for a further six years.
Māori electorates have been a feature of national politics for more than 150 years, but at the local level, just three of New Zealand's 78 local authorities have Māori wards - Wairoa District Council and Bay of Plenty and Waikato regional councils.
In Northland, 5 per cent of registered electors would mean 6027 people could demand a poll for Northland Regional Council (NRC), 3080 in Whangarei District Council (WDC) and 790 in Kaipara District Council (KDC). The demand must be made before February 21 to be in time for the 2022 local government elections.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said the need for polling was unfair.
The three councils' ratepayers will potentially be paying a combined bill of $360,000 – NRC $240,000, WDC $90,000 and KDC $30,000 if the polls were to happen.
Northland councillors voting for Māori wards/constituencies over the past two weeks outnumbered those against by almost two to one. Twenty-two (64 per cent) of the region's 42 elected local government councillors voted for these wards with a dozen (28 per cent) against.
The Far North has one of New Zealand's highest Māori populations with 51 per cent of people identifying as Māori.
FNDC instead decided to poll electors at the October 2022 local government elections. Mayor John Carter, Ann Court, David Clendon, David Collard, Felicity Foy and John Vujich voted for this option. Mate Radich, Rachel Smith, Kelly Stratford and Moko Tepania voted against it. The poll will cost about $9000.
FNDC's Carter was the only Northland local government leader who voted against bringing in Māori wards.