Western Bay of Plenty District Council will support a bid to remove or change the legislation that allows for binding public polls on the establishment of Māori wards.

Yesterday's decision came two days before voting closes in the council's binding public poll on whether to introduce Māori wards in the next two elections. Polls close at noon tomorrow .

In the meeting, all but three councillors voted to support Horowhenua District Council's remit to review the Local Electoral Act in relation to Māori representation.

The Western Bay councillors who did not support the move were the same trio who voted against establishing Māori wards in the district in November: Margaret Murray-Benge, Kevin Marsh and Mike Lally.


They argued the council should delay the decision until it had heard the community's view on Māori wards this weekend.

Supporting councillors said the decision was about advocating for the law to be made consistent, and was not related to the council's own poll.

Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Margaret Murray-Benge. Photo/Andrew Warner
Western Bay of Plenty District councillor Margaret Murray-Benge. Photo/Andrew Warner

Murray-Benge said if there was to be a change in the law "it should be that Māori wards should be removed from the legislation".

"With the poll happening this weekend it is inappropriate for this council to even have an opinion until we know what our community is thinking," Murray-Benge said.

Lally said the only reason this was being considered was other councils found they were out of step with their voters when decisions to introduce Māori wards were overturned by their communities.

"They're running off to parliament to change the law because some mayors and councillors were embarrassed."

He said he would find out on Saturday night whether his vote against Māori wards was in step with the community's wishes.

"If I'm wrong, I'll say I made a mistake."

In its letter asking for Western Bay's endorsement, Horowhenua gave a deadline of 5pm on Thursday for responses from supporting councils.

Other elected members said the remit was a separate issue to the Western Bay's poll.

Mayor Garry Webber said it was about making the law consistent.

Councils had the power to create wards - including rural wards and location-based wards - and there were usually two opportunities for constituents to have a say in that process.

If the ward being created were for Māori, however, there was a third opportunity as a petition signed could trigger a referendum.

"To me, this is inequity in the law. If we're going to poll for one ward, let's poll for everything."

He said the poll would "unnecessarily" cost the council about $70,000.