A Māori ward is on the way for Central Hawke's Bay, after the district council voted today to introduce one for the 2025 and 2028 local body elections.
It also voted to allow mana whenua to appoint two representatives to sit around the council table in an advisory role.
Around 20 people spoke in support of the decision at today's council meeting - including Ngāti Kahungunu chair Bayden Barber.
Māori historically struggled to gain representation through winning elections, but a Māori ward would guarantee it, he said.
"We can do it, but it is tough.
"The opportunity to have a seat, no matter what's happening in the community, to have a seat at this table, I think it's an awesome opportunity.
"We should grab it with both hands."
Mayor Alex Walker said the decision was a long time coming.
"It is absolutely right for those on the Māori roll to be able to exercise their vote to ensure that an unapologetic te ao Māori voice can sit at this table."
Prior to Wednesday's vote, Central Hawke's Bay was the only council in the region without a Māori ward.
It had previously been considered in both 2018 and 2021, but meeting agenda documents said mana whenua were not ready, as they "had not appropriately considered the matter".
This time around, mana whenua were in support - but Ngāti Kere Hapū Authority representative Tip Tutaki told the meeting it would prefer to appoint someone itself.
"The reason for that is we don't want to leave representation on the council to the vagaries of an election.
"We understand that nominations can come from any Māori within the rohe of the council, so we don't want to be in that sort of argument or having to compete with whoever."
That was addressed by councillors voting to allow mana whenua to select up to two representatives to sit at the council table - as well as introducing a Māori ward.
The council would now develop a "representation review proposal", which would include decisions on the number of councillors, the number and make up of wards, and ward boundaries and names.