Leaders across the region have mixed reactions to the government's announcement to remove the ability to petition against a Māori ward.
The announcement, made by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta on Monday, means local authorities will now have the ability to implement a Māori ward without the risk of the decision being reversed by a referendum.
Currently, if a local authority moves to establish a Māori ward, a binding referendum on the issue must be held if 5 per cent of the population demand it by way of a petition.
Since the current law was introduced in 2001, only two of the 21 councils that voted to establish a Māori ward were successful.
The most notable battle against a Māori ward was in New Plymouth, where 83 per cent of voters voted against the proposal. Then-mayor Andrew Judd, a supporter of a ward, reported receiving abuse and being spat at on the street.
Mahuta said the law change is set to take effect before next year's local government elections, meaning any current petition against a proposal is now rendered null and void.
In Whanganui, Mayor Hamish McDouall said there were currently no plans to introduce a Māori ward, not because the council didn't support it, but because local iwi did not want it.
"We reviewed it three years ago and we asked local iwi if they wanted wards. Their very clear intention was to work a different way, and that resolved the matter."
McDouall said he would be open to having the discussion again if iwi raised it.
"I'd certainly put it to the table, and I'd certainly support it."
Local kaumatua John Maihi said the long-standing position among Whanganui hapū has been that Māori wards could lead to representation that wasn't necessarily all that representative.
"The Māori ward proposal is linked to the Māori electoral roll. At that time we weren't keen on someone who lives here but doesn't tribally belong here telling us what to do.
"It's probably something we'll have to revisit because everybody around the country seems to think it's a good idea, but what's making them think that?"
Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson said despite not having a defined Māori ward, there has been Māori representation on the council's standing committees for some years through the Te Roopu Ahi Kaa representation committee.
"We've had some discussions with them [local iwi], and what was agreed was that on our standing committees, policy planning, finance and assets, we would invite a representative to sit on those council committees with full voting rights.
"They are not elected at large, but there is an election process within each iwi and each iwi varies how they handle that. So they are effectively nominating a representative to Te Roopu Ahi Kaa. They then have a vote around the table on who they would like to see on those standing committees."
Watson said his understanding was that the representation committee is comfortable with the current arrangement without implementing a Māori ward.
"It has been up for discussion within Te Roopu Ahi Kaa and their view was at the time that they would prefer the way we are handling it [Māori representation] at the moment."
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said he was pleased with the government's announcement.
"I'm quite certain that there will be part of a population not happy at all around this, but the time has come. We do need to take Māori representation seriously," Cameron said.
"It wasn't surprising. It was signalled early last year and as there were nine councils looking to introduce Māori wards, there was pressure for a change to prevent Hobson's Pledge from sparking a poll."
Ruapehu District Council voted last year to establish a Māori ward, with community consultation to take place this year.
Over recent weeks, the proposal for a Māori ward in the district sparked headlines after a man collecting signatures for Hobson's Pledge was charged with assault. There were also allegations that the group hadn't been up front with its petition, attempting to trick people.
Cameron labelled the actions of the group "sneaky."
"I have no problem with people wanting to voice their opinion, what I do have a problem with is forcing their opinion on others. The wording of the petition that was put out, if someone not up to date with what's going on, they might have signed it. It was worded almost in support of Māori wards."
The council will now begin the process of consulting the public on how to implement a Māori ward.
South Taranaki District Council had also voted to establish a Māori ward ahead of the next local government election. Mayor Phil Nixon has been contacted for comment.