Horizons Regional Council has voted overwhelmingly in favour of establishing Māori wards.
The final vote at Wednesday's council meeting was 10 for and one against, with councillor Bruce Gordon abstaining.
The Government made way for the move in February, when it abolished a law allowing local referendums to veto decisions by councils to establish Māori wards.
Horizons chairwoman Rachel Keedwell acknowledged a petition delivered to council by Taumarunui resident Fiona Kahukura Chase, and said it was an honour to host a large contingency of Māori at Regional House in Palmerston North.
"Their presence added to this momentous occasion," Keedwell said.
"Today's decision is a reflection of what council has heard from those most directly affected."
A survey on whether to establish Māori representation for Horizons was sent to about 18,500 individuals on the Māori electoral roll in the region, and was also publicly available on Horizons' website.
Between April 13 and May 10, the council received 1649 responses to the survey.
Of the 1649 responses, 1475 supported the establishment of Māori constituencies in the Horizons region for the 2022 local election and 152 opposed.
Of the respondents, 1369 (95.5 per cent) of those who identified as Māori supported establishing Māori constituencies. Of the 170 non-Māori respondents, 50.6 per cent opposed.
"Council will now need to formally consult with the region's communities about their preferences for the overall makeup of council's constituencies," Keedwell said.
Whanganui councillor David Cotton was the only person to vote against the motion, but he said it wasn't because he was opposed to the establishment of Māori wards in the Horizons constituency.
The Government's ruling that councils' decisions had to made by May 21 meant the motion had been "pushed through with virtually no consultation", Cotton said.
"We've prided ourselves in the past, with things like the long-term plan, in taking the community along with us.
"There was communication with 18,500 people on the Māori electoral roll, of which 1649 replied.
"That's less than 10 per cent."
Cotton said because of the short timeframe allowed before the vote, he didn't think the public "truly understood" the implications of the establishment of Māori wards.
"If you're in Palmerston North, you currently vote for four people on Horizons.
"You have the chance to put four people around that table, including Wiremu [Te Awe Awe].
"If you're on the Māori roll you get one person. I'm not saying that's good or bad, I'm saying that people need to be aware of what they're getting into.
"One other point, which I think is really important, is that if people want to change from the general roll to the Māori roll, they aren't able to do that until 2025."
The Māori Electoral Option is held after each five-yearly population Census and runs for four months. If someone is already enrolled to vote, the next opportunity to change rolls will be in 2024.
Under the Local Electoral Act 2002 (LEA), a formal representation review process will need to be completed this year.
Whanganui councillor Nicola Patrick, who voted in favour, said it was "a real honour" to be present when the vote was held.
"It's a small step forward, but a really significant one, and one that you can see is quite overdue," Patrick said.
"My message is that it's not a silver bullet.
"There is a lot of other work to do, not least in the coming weeks and months in the representation review.
"It's absolutely long term as well, on how we can more deeply address challenges around co-governance and increasing Māori representation.
"There will be some specific meetings and processes we have to go through to determine the number of councillors, the number of Māori wards, where the boundaries sit and how that affects our overall structure.
"There are quite a big set of questions that we have to dig into.
"While it's a pity we don't have more time, I think it's wonderful that we've decided to push on.
"Leaving it longer just isn't worth it, with the overwhelming message we received."
Patrick said the 1649 survey responses was "actually really high", and she was pleased with it.
"Just under 10 per cent is very good for a local government instigated question.
"If you look at the numbers of submissions on a long term plan against the numbers of households we have, it's hugely lower than that.
"The wider community was aware, and all had the chance to share their views through the online survey."
The council must determine its proposed representation arrangements - the number of elected members in total, number of members to be elected by voters in Māori and general constituencies respectively, names and boundaries of constituencies, and the number of representatives in each constituency - no later than August 31, 2021.