Hawke's Bay regional councillors have decided to "keep an open mind" and let residents have their say on whether to establish Māori wards in the region.
But it's a decision, or lack of it, that has again left Māori council representatives asking for more leadership on the issue.
Councillors met on Wednesday morning in Napier to discuss once again the question of whether to establish Māori wards.
The council had previously discussed the topic in November last year, drawing sharp criticism from iwi representatives in attendance when it resolved to put the question to the public in a poll at the next election.
Then changes to the Local Electoral Act removed provisions that allow for the use of binding polls in the decision to establish Māori wards or constituencies. That took the council as chairman Rex Graham put it back to "square one", forcing it back to the table to discuss it again.
Councillor Martin Williams said the council had a "clear direction of travel" from previous discussions.
He put forward a motion based around the second option proposed in a paper to council, which will see the council undertake community engagement and consultation about one or more proposed seats to enable a "substantive decision" to be made before May 21, 2021.
This would allow the council fit within a transitional period which could see Māori seats established in time for the next local government election in 2022, regardless of previous council decisions.
However, Mike Paku, co-chair of the council's Māori committee, felt the motion did little to encourage Māori wards being established.
"I appreciate what the motion signals. I think the one thing missing is […] really a clear indication from councillors themselves about whether they want to see Māori wards established.
"Where is the guidance from the councillors themselves?"
He felt the options put forward to council were driven by council officers rather than by the councillors.
"There has to be leadership as well."
He said the Māori community had already signalled its clear desire to see Māori wards established.
His co-chair Michelle McIlroy echoed his comments, adding that "in the end [councillors] have got to make a decision".
"Are we going to have Māori wards or are we not? This isn't a race-based decision it's a Treaty-based decision."
In response, councillor Rick Barker said councillors had refrained from commenting on the proposal in a more forthright manner, "deliberately and thoughtfully".
"We want public to know we're going to enter into this open mindedly," he said.
Williams agreed, adding councillors intended to "travel through this process as a region".
Council voted unanimously to revoke the previous motion and adopt the new proposal.
It would allow for four weeks of consultation, at an estimated cost of about $15,000.
If a decision was made to establish one or more Māori constituencies, council would be required to immediately initiate a formal Representation Review process at an estimated cost of about $20,000 - this could be brought forward from the 2023-24 budgets into the 2021-22 financial year budgets.