The Rangitīkei District Council has voted unanimously in favour of establishing a Māori ward in time for next year's local body elections.
The number of dedicated Māori representatives is not yet known and while the council's iwi advisory group has called for 50/50 representation, mayor Andy Watson says that is not possible.
Watson said the decision to incorporate dedicated Māori representation was a "significant" step forward for the district.
"We have a fantastic relationship working with iwi throughout our district," Watson said.
"We have a number of different iwi in our district, and we have Rātana. The engagement has been honest, fruitful and genuine in nature. In other words, we highly value their input and perspective on council."
Before the vote councillor Tracey Hiroa led the discussion, explaining the significance of genuine Māori engagement with the council.
"As part of democracy and as part of a council that looks at inclusion in a number of things that we do, it just makes total sense to me that this is another step for the council to be brave," Hiroa said. "Be brave and let's move this forward."
Deputy mayor Nigel Belsham backed Hiroa and said the council must take further tangible action to engage with Māori.
"We have talked the talk, and I believe this is another stepping stone in walking the walk."
Councillor Angus Gordon also supported the move pointing to the Treaty of Waitangi.
"Te Roopuu Ahi Kaa was our first step in honouring that document on the wall over there, and this is probably the second step. These are some of the hardest steps, but they're also the biggest dividends."
Bulls Ward councillor Brian Carter raised questions about other non-tangata whenua groups expecting their own representation, as well as whether a ward was even necessary.
"Do we also get representation from other groups coming into our community such as the Samoans and Indians? That is a concern I have," Carter said.
"We've got three of our colleagues of the Māori perspective in our voting. If people are prepared to put themselves forward in that respect, why do we need the ward?"
Despite the concerns, Carter voted in favour of representation.
Te Roopuu Ahi Kaa has been the council's main method of ensuring Māori representation.
The komiti (committee) is made up of various iwi representatives from across the district, and advises the council on issues of significance to tangata whenua.
At the meeting of the komiti in February, the group was asked to consider the establishment of a Māori ward.
The komiti reported back on April 6 after discussion with local iwi members, and confirmed their support for a recommendation to establish Māori representation to the full council.
However, the komiti recommended more than just proportional Māori representation, instead recommending that Māori elected members should make up half of all councillors around the table under a full partnership model.
This was not supported by council in its vote on Thursday, with the wording of the council motion changed to remove the equal representation clause.
Watson said it simply wasn't possible under current legislation.
"That was an aspiration that they had, realising that wouldn't be the way it would be resolved as per the act. It was of aspirational value," he said.
Instead, a representation review will now be completed to calculate the number of Māori ward voters within the district to determine how many designated Māori positions will be created, likely to be one or two.