For the first time, all Bay of Plenty Regional councillors now sit on its Komiti Māori committee.
Kohi Māori constituency councillor Toi Kai Rakau Iti said it was the first step in a longer journey the council must walk.
Before a vote earlier this month, only seven of the 14 regional councillors sat on the committee.
Now all are required to attend.
Iti said while other councils have been debating and fighting to have Māori wards, the regional council has had them for over a decade. Yet it has just realised that it is not on the Māori councillors to do the heavy lifting but is the responsibility of all.
"All of council has a responsibility to engage and partner with Māori," Iti said.
"It also elevates the committee, so the committee can get on and do the business it needs to do rather than having seven people sit and then get their decisions ratified through council.
"Having all the councillors there saves us from having to relitigate or explain what happened to non-committee members afterwards."
Komiti Māori sat as a full committee of council for the first time on Tuesday at Te Manuka Tutahi Marae in Whakatāne. Six councillors were unable to attend.
Iti chaired that meeting and said it was great for councillors who had never attended Komiti Māori before to hear first-hand the issues.
At the meeting they heard from Te Waimana Kaaku Tribal on its papakainga housing solution, Ngati Awa rangatahi concerned at development occurring next to the wahi tapu urupa Opihi Whanaungakore, and from Doctor Kura Paul-Burke on her work restoring the Ohiwa Harbour, among others.
"It was a really good impression for the other councillors," Iti said.
Stuart Crosby who is a regional councillor and president of Local Government New Zealand, attended for the first time.
"He thought it was great, and that's the type of bridge building we need to do. We need to take everyone with us," Iti said.
The regional council represents 200 hapu and 40 iwi, more than any other council in New Zealand and Iti said it was important the council engaged with each and every one.
It was particularly important as the Government was pushing through reform on fresh water and the Resource Management Act, Iti said.
"There is a focus on local government engaging and partnering better with hapu and iwi," he said.
"We need to improve but how we do that we don't know."
At the next meeting, translators will be available and many regional councillors are also taking te reo lessons.
Iti said making Komiti Māori a full committee was the first step but there were others worth investigating too – such as giving mana whenua seats and voting rights.