Ruapehu District councillors have made the "brave" decision to establish Māori wards for their 2022 election.
The decision was made at Thursday's council meeting in Ohakune, with 10 councillors for and two against.
The decision to have Māori wards could be overturned if 5 per cent of enrolled voters (more than 385) ask for a poll.
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said he was proud of councillors for making this brave and landmark decision. He encouraged district people to support it, and not to be afraid.
The discussion about it was mature and respectful, he said. Dissenting councillors were concerned the decision could be considered race-based, and said there were other opportunities for Māori to be involved other than Māori wards.
Councillor Elijah Pue campaigned for the establishment of Māori wards and agrees with Cameron that it's a brave call.
He said it is the least the council can do to honour its Treaty of Waitangi obligations.
"The council should have been having these conversations years ago, but this is a fantastic step in the right direction."
He hopes there won't be a referendum that revokes the ward establishment - as there was for the Kaikoura, Manawatū, Whakatane and Palmerston North councils after 2017.
It's what comes next that really matters, he said - the way the wards are set up, how many there are and how iwi representation fits into them. Ruapehu people will be able to have input into this.
He expects to benefit from the change.
"As a Māori councillor, it's going to affect me most. I'm going to be here and reap the benefits in the next 10 to 20 years," he said.
One who was against it was Graeme Cosford, who said the council was a team and shouldn't need to resort to this method of selection.
However, the council majority felt the wards would enhance relationships with Māori, uphold the principles of partnership and participation and allow Māori perspectives to influence council thinking.
The wards would be in place for the 2022 and 2025 elections and could be reviewed after that.
The council has embarked on a review of how its elections are held. Its candidates are voted for in wards, and a decision about whether to have Māori wards has to come before other ward decisions.
If Māori wards are established candidates standing for election will choose whether to stand in a Māori or general ward. Voters on the Māori roll will be able to vote for Māori ward candidates, and those on the general roll for general ward candidates.
In either case successful candidates will take an oath to make decisions on behalf of the whole district, Cameron said.
The impetus to have Māori wards comes from the Ruapehu District Māori Council, and on August 5 Fiona Kahukura Chase took a deputation to a council meeting in Taumarunui to ask for at least three Māori wards.
The people of the district are 45 per cent Māori, according to the Statistics New Zealand's 2018 Census, and two of the council's current 12 councillors are Māori.