Maori are one step closer to gaining permanent representation on the New Plymouth District Council.
On Tuesday night the council's policy committee narrowly passed a recommendation to introduce a Maori ward at next year's local government elections.
If adopted, it will mean New Plymouth would become the first district council in New Zealand to successfully establish a Maori ward.
The introduction of a Maori ward has been the goal of first-term New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd since a move to give tangata wheuna voting rights on standing committees was rejected in April.
"The main push-back on that was that they weren't elected so this option deals to that. It's not the ultimate place of engaging with Maori from my perspective but it's a beginning."
Mr Judd said the move will offer an opportunity for Maori to engage more meaningfully with council.
"I'm trying to achieve participation by the wider community, particulary tangata whenua, who I've spoken to directly - elders, kaumatua - who want a voice at the main table. They bring a whole wealth of perspective to the land, to the sea, to the air, to the waterways."
Local authorities have had the power to create Maori wards since 2002 but so far only Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils have introduced them.
About six city and district councils have held polls on Maori wards, only to reject them.
In New Plymouth, it's proposed there be one Maori ward and only those on the Maori Parliamentary electoral roll will be eligible to vote for it.
President of the local branch of Grey Power, Hugh Johnson, is against the move.
"I oppose this motion because I believe that the ratepayers should have a say on the issue. I would have preferred a ratepayers' poll - a binding referendum from ratepayers."
He said if the full council adopts the proposal Grey Power will start a petition to see if it can force a poll on the issue.
Chairman of the Waitara Community Board, Joe Rauner, worries that a single Maori ward councillor wouldn't be able to represent all Maori in the district adequately.
"We look at the hapu side of it, so when there's an issue that comes up at council, these hapu representatives can sort it out before the recommendatoin goes to the community board which then comes to the policy committee and then to full council - it's all been consulted."
Mr Rauner said he would like to see the formation of a Maori committee at hapu level.
Former rugby league international, Howie Tamati, is the only current Maori councillor in New Plymouth. He said he would like to see the Maori ward given a try.
"It's a starting point. It's better than having nothing and from there I think we can build the relationship. I believe in small steps rather than trying to push through the gates. We all want the same thing."
A final decision on the introduction of a Maori ward will be made at the full council meeting on 23 September.