The contentious decision by Western Bay of Plenty district councillors to create one or more Maori wards has fired up residents who want a public poll on the matter.
Among them is former Te Puke Community Board candidate Richard McNair, who's been helping to organise a petition to gain the necessary signatures to force a public vote.
“I attended the meeting regarding Maori wards, and I thought it wasn't right,” he says. “To me, democracy is one man, one vote. If you're going to have Maori wards, you need to have Asian wards as well.
“Once you start, where does it finish?”
Richard says he's spoken to several people from Te Puke, as well as residents living in Katikati, Waihi Beach and Omokoroa, all of whom are keen to see a poll taken.
“I'd be surprised if we don't get the required signatures very quickly.”
Kaimai ward councillor Margaret Murray-Benge, who voted against the decision to introduce Maori wards, says there's been a ‘groundswell of support' for a poll.
“I've always seen every man I've worked with as my equal,” she says. “You have to do that when you're working with the community – you can never see them as being different or inferior in any way.
“That's why I could not vote for a system that separates us out – it's apartheid.”
She says she feels ‘quite comfortable' about the petition.
“I know there's an enormous number of people ready to sign, and ready to take papers to get others to sign. So we will achieve the number required to trigger a poll.
“People should have a say on the subject – it's an important one, and we do live in a democracy.”
If five per cent (1705) or more of the district's electors demand a poll, the issue of Maori wards will be determined by a public poll.
A demand for a poll must be received by February 21, 2018 and a poll held by May 21, 2018. If there is no demand for a poll, the council's decision is final.