Ruapehu district resident Fiona Kahukura Chase drove all the way from Taumarunui to Palmerston North to encourage Horizons Regional Council to have Māori wards at its next election.
She was instrumental in getting Maōri wards agreed to at Ruapehu District Council, and on Wednesday she urged Horizons councillors to have them in place for 2022.
"We have been waiting for 180 years. We don't need to wait any more. If you are waiting for us, we are ready," she said.
At its March 9 strategy and policy meeting the council voted to investigate having Māori wards. Then on March 23, it voted to try for them in the 2022 election.
A short survey was sent out to residents, and answers are due back by May 10.
On Wednesday, April 28, council chairwoman Rachel Keedwell said there had been quite a few replies to the survey, with three-quarters in favour of establishing Māori wards.
The council has already decided that Māori on its climate change and civil defence committees will have voting rights.
Kahukura Chase told the councillors that whakapapa (ancestry) was important to Māori, and linked them to their lands, rivers and mountains. Those links gave them a place to stand and a right to be heard.
The two most important things to Māori were the wellbeing of their environment and the wellbeing of their mokopuna, she said.
"We are born to look after our land and our people."
In the Ruapehu district 43 per cent of the population is Māori, she said, with nearly 50 per cent for Taumarunui. Yet Māori owned very few homes, less than 4 per cent of their own land and less than 7 per cent of Ruapehu's wealth.
In the 2020 year the average wage for Māori in the district was less than $20,000 a year, she said, and fewer than 6 per cent earned more than $60,000.
"That means most of my whanaunga live in poverty. It's not right that a good proportion of Māori live in poverty."
Having Māori elected to the regional council would ensure a specifically Māori perspective, she said, which would be hugely beneficial when considering land use.
Council deputy chairman Jono Naylor said the council was likely to have two Māori seats when Māori wards were established. He asked whether Māori would prefer the two councillors to be elected at large across the region, or whether it should be divided into two pieces, with one seat in each.
The same question had arisen in Ruapehu, Kahukura Chase said.
"When it comes to boundaries, that's always a hard thing because Māori never work in boundaries. We work as whanaunga (relations)."
However, she said if the Horizons region was divided between north and south, Ruapehu, Whanganui, Rangitīkei and Manawatū could be the northern part, with the rest southern.
Ruapehu councillor Weston Kirton asked whether it would be worthwhile for Horizons to have a Māori council as well as the wards. That would probably be a good thing for Ruapehu people, Kahukura Chase said, because Ruapehu was so far from Palmerston North and only had one Horizons councillor.
Māori wards were only part of the Māori representation picture, Palmerston North councillor Wiremu Te Awe Awe said.
"We are also looking at co-governance, not just one seat at the table."