Kaipara District Council has decided to establish a Māori ward at the next local body elections - despite 50 emails objecting to the proposal.
The controversial ward concept has long been discussed by the council and the Kaipara community.
Other councils around the country have also recently decided to establish Māori wards - but are facing opposition as ratepayers gather signatures to force a binding ratepayer poll on the topic.
Dargaville ward councillor Karen Joyce-Paki - Kaipara district's first Māori councillor - proposed the Māori ward.
“It’s about time we start a robust discussion and, from that, execute a plan that will be beneficial for Māori. The process is too slow and I know that but we are making a start.”
Before today's decision more than 50 people sent emails to the council rejecting the proposal for a Māori ward. Only one written submission was received in support.
"The majority of those who opposed the decision don't even live in the Kaipara region so, in my personal opinion, if you don't pay rent here and you don't live here, your say is irrelevant," Joyce-Paki said.
Kaipara mayor Jason Smith said today was significant for the Kaipara District Council. "The importance of this shows how far we have come as a council."
“This key decision today becomes a foundation for a more collaborative partnership with Māori and non-Māori," Smith said.
"I fully suport this Māori ward - it will definitely be beneficial for the Kaipara region.”
Te Uri o Hau and Te Roroa, the main iwi in Kaipara, earlier gave a presentation to the council on why having a Māori ward was important.
Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust chair Antony Thompson: “The need to have a Māori mandate goes without saying. As you can see today I am representing Te Uri o Hau and Te Roroa is standing in support of this Māori ward also.”
He emphasised the economic value Māori brought to the Kaipara community and to wider Northland.
“In Northland in a tikanga o Taonui research paper, the iwi within Te Tai Tokerau was found to bring roughly $300 million into the economy, so translating that into the Kaipara is vast. Our social service is the largest in the north, our infrastructure is a prime industry and there are forestry, farming, fishing and other areas as well.”
“When you look at it from that point of view you do see the need to form a holistic relationship where Māori concerns and voices are heard and shared at the council’s decision-making table.”
Te Uri o Hau supported the Māori mandate, which would secure a more solid and equal representation for both iwi at the decision-making table.
The iwi were already looking at who could represent them both in the Māori chair if it goes ahead.
Seven councillors supported the Māori ward and none voted against. Two were undecided.