Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says the provision of Maori seats on local councils should not be decided by a public vote.
Nelson voters rejected a proposal that a dedicated Maori ward be established, despite the city council itself supporting the move.
Commissioner Joris de Bres says says the law should be changed so Maori seats are a right, rather than subject to a vote of the majority.
Mr de Bres said the result of the vote, while disappointing, was not surprising because, by its nature, the majority can not always be relied on to allow for minority rights.
"To put it to a general vote without a very informed electorate, I think, always runs the risk of the minority being told where to get off."
Joris de Bres says he will lobby for the change during the review being carried out of New Zealand's constitution.
Of the 15,487 votes received in the binding Nelson poll, 79% opposed the move. Special votes have yet to be counted.