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Councillors voted seven to three today to approach local runaka to appoint two representatives on its policy committee, joining 12 elected councillors.
The iwi representatives would have voting rights.
The decision follows a spirited debate at council today.
Cr Michael Laws expressed opposition to the move earlier in the week, calling it "racist" and "undemocratic" as the representatives would not be elected.
Cr Michael Deaker, who supported the move, said at the meeting today Cr Laws was a "very effective populist politician in a Trumpian way".
The council had received many abusive emails, mostly from people outside the region, calling the council "privileged" and "racist" regarding the move, he said.
Cr Gretchen Robertson said she "strongly supported" the action.
"How can we speak for iwi. We can't interpret, we need to hear."
Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said it must look at ways to enhance its partnership with iwi.
Runaka members signalled they may appoint representatives with Resource Management Act experience, which would greatly help the council with its work, he said.
"We will still be consulting the wider community including all Maori, we are not excluding anyone."
Cr Laws said it was an issue for a new council and the move would give power to runaka, but not Maori in general.
Ngai Tahu had "no problem" accessing the council already, he said.
The decision was supported by Mr Woodhead, Cr Kempton, Cr Doug Brown, Cr Robertson, Cr Lawton, Cr Deaker and Cr Bryan Scott.
It was opposed by crs Laws, Sam Neill and Graeme Bell.
The timing will depend on when Ngai Tahu appoints representatives.