Wellington City Council is investigating giving mana whenua voting rights and remuneration on council committees.
Councillors unanimously voted this morning in favour of a report being undertaken into the legal and logistical steps of it.
Māori partnerships portfolio leader councillor Jill Day led the move with a notice of motion, which was tabled at a strategy and policy committee meeting today.
She choked up when she reflected on the Māori world view.
"Just for a minute imagine what it's been like to watch for generations your land alienated, your names replaced, and your identity removed from the community, and every time you would like to participate you're reminded that you can't because of this law or this process. The rules are stacked against you."
Day told her colleagues that while mana whenua do currently have seats at the table, it was an unfair system
"As you will be aware, those meetings can go for a long time and if you're not paid to be at that meeting, and you can't really participate in the decisions that are made in that meeting, why would you bother turning up? Because you still need to put food on the table for your whanau and you need to be able to hold down your own job.
She said it was "quite frankly discriminatory" asking people to do something for nothing.
The last time the matter was raised at a council meeting councillor Sean Rush turned his back on a waiata, which he later publicly apologised for and promised to undergo cultural training.
Today Rush restated his apology for being "out of order".
He said having spent 18 years out of New Zealand he came back to find his country more divided than ever in regards to race.
He said the discussion had become about "them", which he found concerning.
"I can't see how we can possibly implement this in a way that's consistent with human rights legislation."
He said a Māori ward was the way council should be championing this type of representation, as it had a statutory framework and backing.
Councillor Rebecca Matthews rejected there was greater division on the basis of race in New Zealand over the past 20 years.
She acknowledged that was happening in other places in the world, but said it wasn't happening in Aotearoa.
"I see actually many more Pākehā New Zealanders, and especially younger people, who recognise te Tiriti, its importance, want to learn about it, and want to express it through all sorts of institutions."
Mayor Andy Foster said it was clear through legislation the council has a legal obligation to provide opportunities for Māori to contribute to decision making processes.
He said the issue for him was how that would be done.
Foster also reflected on the definition of democracy and while it was a privilege for him and his colleagues to be around the table, it was so because they were elected.
Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said the definition of democracy recognised the legitimacy of first peoples.
"In New Zealand, the Treaty of Waitangi is what gives this council and the whole state any legitimacy to be here at all."
"Having mana whenua at the table is just one small step to upholding that legitimacy and making better long term decisions for Wellington."
The report will be brought to a strategy and policy committee meeting on December 3.