A Whakatane community leader is backing a community-led campaign to protect the district council's Māori ward.
Councillors voted in favour of establishing the ward in November, to give representation to the 43 percent of the population who are Māori.
Whakatane-based Labour list MP Kiritapu Allan hopes it'll lead to greater participation in local politics.
"Almost half of our resident population is Māori, and you've seen for many years a disconnect - I guess you could say there hasn't been a lot of Māori representation at a council level."
Ms Allan says a Hobson's Pledge petition against the Māori ward is unlikely to have much impact. Hobson's Pledge, which counts former National Party leader Don Brash amongst its backers, has organised a petition calling for a referendum.
Former councillor David Dowd backs the petition, telling RNZ "70 percent of voters… opposed the formation of Māori wards" when a referendum was held "about 10 years ago".
"It's simply about democracy."
Ms Allan says it's not just Māori who back the ward.
"Those Māori wards are supported by Māori as much as they are by non-Māori," Ms Allan told Newshub.
"You've got groups like this, they're redundant voices all running that kind of race rhetoric divide. It's sad to see them still pushing those lines."
According to its website, Hobson's Pledge wants 1161 people to sign the Whakatane petition. It is also collecting signatures from people opposed to Māori wards in other regions, including Kaikoura, Palmerston North, Manawatu and Western Bay of Plenty.
Auckland Council voted in principle to introduce a Māori ward 10-5 in September.