The Wairoa District Council has been forced to backtrack on a decision not to hold a poll until next year's local government elections, on whether to introduce Maori wards.
46% of the electoral population in northern Hawke's Bay are Maori, which is one of the highest percentages of any region in New Zealand.
Last year the council considered two reports which provided background information on the establishment of Maori wards.
It then held five public meetings and mailed ratepayers a discussion document on Maori representation, accompanied by an informal expression of opinion survey.
62% of those who responded to the survey were against Maori wards.
In November 2011 councillors voted to consult the community before making a decision on the issue, but not until October 2013.
But this week the council's administration manager received a petition signed by more than 5% of those on the electoral roll demanding a poll be held as soon as possible.
James Baty says the outcome of the poll to be held in May will be binding for the elections in 2013 and 2016.