M%C4%81ori Electorates
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M%C4%81ori Electorates

There have been seven M?ori electorates in each of the 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017 general elections.
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In New Zealand politics, M?ori electorates, colloquially known as the M?ori seats, are a special category of electorate that gives reserved positions to representatives of M?ori in the New Zealand Parliament. Every area in New Zealand is covered by both a general and a M?ori electorate; there are currently seven M?ori electorates. Since 1967 candidates in M?ori electorates have not needed to be M?ori themselves, but to register as a voter in the M?ori electorates people need to declare they are of M?ori descent.[1]

The M?ori electorates were introduced in 1867 under the Maori Representation Act.[2] They were created in order to give M?ori a more direct say in parliament. The first M?ori elections were held in the following year during the term of the 4th New Zealand Parliament. The electorates were intended as a temporary measure lasting five years but were extended in 1872 and made permanent in 1876.[3] Despite numerous attempts to disestablish M?ori electorates, they continue to form a distinct part of the New Zealand political landscape.[4]


M?ori electorates operate much as do general electorates, but have as electors people who are M?ori or of M?ori descent, and who choose to place their names on a separate electoral roll rather than on the "general roll".

There are two features of the M?ori electorates that make them distinct from the general electorates. First, there are a number of skills that are essential for candidates to have in order to engage with their constituencies and ensure a clear line of accountability to representing the 'M?ori voice'. This includes proficiency in the M?ori language, knowledge of tikanga M?ori, whakawhanaungatanga skills and confidence on the marae. Second, the geographical size of the M?ori electoral boundaries vary significantly from the general electorates. Five to 18 general electorates fit into any one M?ori electorate.[5]

M?ori electoral boundaries are superimposed over the electoral boundaries used for general electorates; thus every part of New Zealand simultaneously belongs both in a general seat and in a M?ori seat. Shortly after each census all registered M?ori electors have the opportunity to choose whether they are included on the M?ori or General electorate rolls.[6] Each five-yearly M?ori Electoral Option determines the number of M?ori electorates for the next one or two elections.


The establishment of M?ori electorates came about in 1867 during the term of the 4th Parliament with the Maori Representation Act, drafted by Napier member of parliament Donald McLean.[4] Parliament passed the Act only after lengthy debate, it was passed during a period of warfare between the Government and several North Island M?ori tribes, and was seen as a way to reduce conflict between the races in future.[7] The act originally agreed to set up four electorates specially for M?ori three in the North Island and one covering the whole South Island.[8] The four seats were a fairly modest concession on per capita basis at the time.[9]

Many conservative MPs, most of whom considered M?ori "unfit" to participate in government, opposed M?ori representation in Parliament, while some MPs from the other end of the spectrum (such as James FitzGerald, who had proposed allocating a third of Parliament to M?ori) regarded the concessions given to M?ori as insufficient. In the end the setting up of M?ori electorates separate from existing electorates assuaged conservative opposition to the bill - conservatives had previously feared that M?ori would gain the right to vote in general electorates, thereby forcing all MPs (rather than just four M?ori MPs) to take notice of M?ori opinion.

Before this law came into effect, no direct prohibition on M?ori voting existed, but other indirect prohibitions made it extremely difficult for M?ori to exercise their theoretical electoral rights. The most significant problem involved the property qualification - to vote, one needed to possess a certain value of land.[5] M?ori owned a great deal of land, but they held it in common, not under individual title, and under the law, only land held under individual title could count towards the property qualification.[10] Donald McLean explicitly intended his bill as a temporary measure, giving specific representation to M?ori until they adopted European customs of land ownership. However, the M?ori electorates lasted far longer than the intended five years, and remain in place today, despite the property qualification for voting being removed in 1879.

The first four M?ori members of parliament elected in 1868 were T?reha te Moananui (Eastern Maori), Frederick Nene Russell (Northern Maori) and John Patterson (Southern Maori), who all retired in 1870; and Mete K?ngi Te Rangi Paetahi (Western Maori) who was defeated in 1871. These four persons were the first New Zealand-born members of the New Zealand Parliament.[11] The second four members were Karaitiana Takamoana (Eastern Maori); Wi Katene (Northern Maori); Hori Kerei Taiaroa (Southern Maori); and Wiremu Parata (Western Maori).[12]

The first M?ori woman MP was Iriaka Ratana who represented the enormous Western M?ori electorate. Like Elizabeth McCombs, New Zealand's first women MP, Ratana won the seat in a hotly contested by-election caused by the death of her husband Matiu in 1949.[13]


Currently M?ori elections are held as part of New Zealand general elections but in the past such elections took place separately, on different days (usually the day before the vote for general electorates) and under different rules. Historically, less organisation went into holding M?ori elections than general elections, and the process received fewer resources. M?ori electorates at first did not require registration for voting, which was later introduced. New practices such as paper ballots (as opposed to casting one's vote verbally) and secret ballots also came later to elections for M?ori electorates than to general electorates.

The authorities frequently delayed or overlooked reforms of the M?ori electoral system, with Parliament considering the M?ori electorates as largely unimportant. The gradual improvement of M?ori elections owes much to long-serving M?ori MP Eruera Tirikatene, who himself experienced problems in his own election. From the election of 1951 onwards, the voting for M?ori and general electorates was held on the same day.[14]

Confusion around the M?ori electorates during the 2017 general election was revealed in a number of complaints to the Electoral Commission. Complaints included Electoral Commission staff at polling booths being unaware of the M?ori roll and insisting electors were unregistered when their names did not appear on the general roll; Electoral Commission staff giving incorrect information about the M?ori electorates; electors being given incorrect voting forms and electors being told they were unable to vote for the M?ori Party unless they were on the M?ori roll.[15]

Calls for abolition

Periodically there have been calls for the abolition of the M?ori seats. The electorates aroused controversy even at the time of their origin, and given their intended temporary nature, there were a number of attempts to abolish them. The reasoning behind these attempts has varied - some have seen the electorates as an unfair or unnecessary advantage for M?ori, while others have seen them as discriminatory and offensive.

In 1902, a consolidation of electoral law prompted considerable discussion of the M?ori electorates, and some MPs proposed their abolition. Many of the proposals came from members of the opposition, and possibly had political motivations - in general, the M?ori MPs had supported the governing Liberal Party, which had held power since 1891. Many MPs alleged frequent cases of corruption in elections for the M?ori electorates. Other MPs, however, supported the abolition of M?ori electorates for different reasons - Frederick Pirani, a member of the Liberal Party, said that the absence of M?ori voters from general electorates prevented "p?keh? members of the House from taking that interest in M?ori matters that they ought to take". The M?ori MPs, however, mounted a strong defence of the electorates, with Wi Pere depicting guaranteed representation in Parliament as one of the few rights M?ori possessed not "filched from them by the Europeans". The electorates continued in existence.

Just a short time later, in 1905, another re-arrangement of electoral law caused the debate to flare up again. The Minister of M?ori Affairs, James Carroll, supported proposals for the abolition of M?ori electorates, pointing to the fact that he himself had won the general electorate of Waiapu. Other M?ori MPs, such as Hone Heke Ngapua, remained opposed, however. In the end, the proposals for the abolition or reform of M?ori electorates did not proceed.

Considerably later, in 1953, the first ever major re-alignment of M?ori electoral boundaries occurred, addressing inequalities in voter numbers. Again, the focus on M?ori electorates prompted further debate about their existence. The government of the day, the National Party, had at the time a commitment to the assimilation of M?ori, and had no M?ori MPs, and so many believed that they would abolish the electorates. However, the government had other matters to attend to, and the issue of the M?ori electorates gradually faded from view without any changes. Regardless, the possible abolition of the M?ori electorates appeared indicated when they did not appear among the electoral provisions entrenched against future modification.

In the 1950s the practice of reserving electorates for M?ori was described by some politicians "as a form of 'apartheid', like in South Africa".[16]

In 1967, the electoral system whereby four electorate seats were reserved for representatives who were specifically M?ori ended. Following the Electoral Amendment Act of 1967, the 100-year-old disqualification preventing Europeans from standing as candidates in M?ori seats was removed. (The same Act allowed M?ori to stand in European electorates.)

Since 1967, therefore, there has not been any electoral guarantee of representation by candidates who have M?ori descent. While this still means that those elected to represent M?ori electors in the M?ori electorates are directly accountable to those voters[clarification needed], those representatives are not required to themselves be M?ori.[17]

In 1976, M?ori gained the right for the first time to decide on which electoral roll they preferred to enrol. Surprisingly, only 40% of the potential population registered on the M?ori roll. This reduced the number of calls for the abolition of M?ori electorates, as many presumed that M?ori would eventually abandon the M?ori electorates of their own accord.[]

However the 1977 electoral redistribution has been described as the most overtly political since the Representation Commission was established (through an amendment to the Representation Act in 1886); the option to decide which roll to go on was introduced by Muldoon's National Government.[18] As part of the 1976 census, a large number of people failed to fill out an electoral re-registration card, and census staff had not been given the authority to insist on the card being completed. This had little practical effect for people on the general roll, but it transferred M?ori to the general roll if the card was not handed in.

When a Royal Commission proposed the adoption of the MMP electoral system in 1986, it also proposed that if the country adopted the new system, it should abolish the M?ori electorates. The Commission argued that under MMP, all parties would have to pay attention to M?ori voters, and that the existence of separate M?ori electorates marginalised M?ori concerns. Following a referendum, Parliament drafted an Electoral Reform Bill, incorporating the abolition of the M?ori electorates. Both the National Party and Geoffrey Palmer, Labour's leading reformist, supported abolition; but most M?ori strongly opposed it. Eventually, the provision did not become law. The M?ori electorates came closer than ever to abolition, but survived.

The ACT Party and the National Party have each advocated abolition of the separate electorates. New Zealand First also advocates abolition of the separate electorates but says that the M?ori voters should make the decision. National announced in 2008 it would abolish the electorates when all historic Treaty settlements have been resolved, which it aimed to complete by 2014.[19] While it remains National Party policy to abolish the electorates, Prime Minister John Key ruled it out as recently as August 2014, saying he would not do it even if he had the numbers to do so as there would be "hikois from hell".[20]

During the 2017 election campaign, the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters announced that if elected his party would hold two binding referendums on whether Maori electorates should be abolished and whether the number of MPs should be reduced to 100.[21] The lobby group Hobson's Pledge advocates abolishing the allocated M?ori seats, seeing them as outdated.[22] During post-election negotiations with the Labour Party, Peters indicated that he would consider dropping his call for a referendum on the M?ori seats due to the defeat of the M?ori Party at the 2017 election.[23] In return for forming a government with the Labor Party, NZ First agreed to drop its demand for referenda on abolishing the M?ori electorates.[24][25]

Number of electorates

From 1868 to 1996, four M?ori electorates existed (out of a total that slowly changed from 76 to 99).[26] They comprised:[27]

  1. Eastern Maori
  2. Northern Maori
  3. Southern Maori
  4. Western Maori

With the introduction of the MMP electoral system after 1993, the rules regarding the M?ori electorates changed. Today, the number of electorates floats, meaning that the electoral population of a M?ori seat can remain roughly equivalent to that of a general seat. In the first MMP vote (the 1996 election), the Electoral Commission defined five M?ori electorates:

  1. Te Puku O Te Whenua (The belly of the land)
  2. Te Tai Hauauru (The western district)
  3. Te Tai Rawhiti (The eastern district)
  4. Te Tai Tokerau (The northern district)
  5. Te Tai Tonga (The southern district)

For the second MMP election (1999), six M?ori electorates existed:

  1. Hauraki
  2. Ikaroa-Rawhiti
  3. Te Tai Hau?uru
  4. Te Tai Tokerau
  5. Te Tai Tonga
  6. Waiariki

The 2002 and 2005 elections had seven:

  1. Ikaroa-R?whiti
  2. Tainui
  3. T?maki Makaurau (roughly equivalent to greater Auckland)
  4. Te Tai Hau?uru
  5. Te Tai Tokerau
  6. Te Tai Tonga
  7. Waiariki

The 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017 general elections also had seven:

  1. Hauraki-Waikato - (North Western North Island, includes Hamilton and Papakura)
  2. Ikaroa-R?whiti - (East and South North Island, includes Gisborne and Masterton)
  3. T?maki Makaurau - (Roughly equivalent to greater Auckland)
  4. Te Tai Hau?uru - (Western North Island, includes Taranaki and Manawatu-Wanganui regions)
  5. Te Tai Tokerau - (Northernmost seat, includes Whangarei and North and West Auckland)
  6. Te Tai Tonga - (All of South Island and nearby islands. Largest electorate by area)
  7. Waiariki - (Includes Tauranga, Whakatane, Rotorua, Taupo)

While seven out of 70 (10%) does not nearly reflect the proportion of New Zealanders who identify as being of M?ori descent (about 18%), many M?ori choose to enroll in general electorates, so the proportion reflects the proportion of voters on the M?ori roll.

For maps showing broad electoral boundaries, see selected links to individual elections at New Zealand elections.

Former M?ori Party co-leader Pita Sharples proposed the creation of an additional electorate, for M?ori living in Australia, where there are between 115,000 and 125,000 M?ori, the majority living in Queensland.[28]

Party politics

As M?ori electorates originated before the development of political parties in New Zealand, all early M?ori MPs functioned as independents. When the Liberal Party formed, however, M?ori MPs began to align themselves with the new organisation, with either Liberal candidates or Liberal sympathisers as representatives. M?ori MPs in the Liberal Party included James Carroll, ?pirana Ngata and Te Rangi H?roa. There were also M?ori MPs in the more conservative and rural Reform Party; Maui Pomare, Taurekareka Henare and Taite Te Tomo.

Since the Labour Party first came to power in 1935, however, it has dominated the M?ori electorates. For a long period this dominance owed much to Labour's alliance with the Ratana Church, although the Ratana influence has diminished in recent times. In the 1993 election, however, the new New Zealand First party, led by the part-M?ori Winston Peters - who himself held the general seat of Tauranga from 1984 to 2005 - gained the Northern M?ori seat (electing Tau Henare to Parliament), and in the 1996 election New Zealand First captured all the M?ori electorates for one electoral term. Labour regained the electorates in the following election in the 1999 election.[5]

A development of particular interest to M?ori came in 2004 with the resignation of Tariana Turia from her ministerial position in the Labour-dominated coalition and from her Te Tai Hau?uru parliamentary seat. In the resulting by-election on 10 July 2004, standing under the banner of the newly formed M?ori Party, she received over 90% of the 7,000-plus votes cast. The parties then represented in Parliament had not put up official candidates in the by-election. The new party's support in relation to Labour therefore remained untested at the polling booth.[29]

The M?ori Party aimed to win all seven M?ori electorates in 2005. A Marae-Digipoll survey of M?ori-roll voters in November 2004 gave it hope: 35.7% said they would vote for a M?ori Party candidate, 26.3% opted for Labour, and five of the seven electorates appeared ready to fall to the new party.[30] In the election, the new party won four of the M?ori electorates. It seemed possible that M?ori Party MPs could play a role in the choice and formation of a governing coalition, and they conducted talks with the National Party. In the end they remained in Opposition.[31]

Similarly in 2008, the M?ori Party aimed to win all seven M?ori electorates. However, in the election, they managed to increase their four electorates only to five. Although the National government had enough MPs to govern without the M?ori Party, it invited the M?ori Party to support their minority government on confidence and supply in return for policy concessions and two ministerial posts outside of Cabinet. The M?ori Party signed a confidence and supply agreement with National on the condition that the M?ori electorates were not abolished unless the M?ori voters agreed to abolish them. Other policy concessions including a review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, a review of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, and the introduction of the Wh?nau Ora indigenous health initiative.[32]

Discontentment with the M?ori Party's support agreement with National particularly the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill 2001 led the party's Te Tai Tokerau Member Hone Harawira to secede from the M?ori Party and form the radical left-wing Mana Movement. During the 2011 general election, the M?ori Party retained three of the M?ori electorates while Labour increased its share of the M?ori electorates to three, taking Te Tai Tonga. The Mana Movement retained Te Tai Tokerau. Tensions between the M?ori Party and Mana Movement combined with competition from the Labour Party fragmented the M?ori political voice in Parliament.[33][34]

In the 2014 election, Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira formed an electoral pact with the Internet Party, founded by controversial Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and led by former Alliance MP Laila Harré known as Internet MANA. Hone was defeated by Labour candidate Kelvin Davis, who was tacitly endorsed by the ruling National Party, New Zealand First, and the M?ori Party.[35][36][37][38] During the 2014 election, Labour captured six of the M?ori electorates with the M?ori Party being reduced to co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell's Waiariki electorate.[39] The M?ori Party managed to bring a second member co-leader Marama Fox into Parliament as their party vote entitled them to one further list seat.[40]

During the 2017 general election, the M?ori Party formed an electoral pact with the Mana Movement leader and former M?ori Party MP Hone Harawira not to contest Te Tai Tokerau as part of a deal to regain the M?ori electorates from the Labour Party.[41] Despite these efforts, Labour captured all seven of the M?ori electorates with Labour candidate Tamati Coffey unseating M?ori Party co-leader Flavell in Waiariki.[42]

See also


  1. ^ "About the M?ori Electoral Option". Electoral Commission New Zealand. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ "Maori Representation Act 1867". Retrieved 2011.
  3. ^ "Representation Act 1867". archives.govt.nz.
  4. ^ a b Wilson, John (May 2009) [November 2003]. "The Origins of the M?ori Seats". Wellington: New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Maria Bargh, "Chapter 5.3: The M?ori Seats," pp 302-303.
  6. ^ "M?ori Electoral Option 2013 | Electoral Commission". Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ "Maori Representation Act 1867". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  8. ^ "Maori and the Vote". NZHistory.
  9. ^ "Maori and the Vote". NZHistory.
  10. ^ "The origins of the M?ori seats". New Zealand Parliament - P?remata Aotearoa.
  11. ^ Scholefield, Guy, ed. (1940). A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography : M-Addenda (PDF). II. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 2015.
  12. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "1. - Ng? m?ngai - M?ori representation - Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ "First M?ori woman MP (3rd of 4)". teara.govt.nz.
  14. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 138.
  15. ^ "Polling booth staff mislead and confuse M?ori voters". M?ori Television. Retrieved 2018.
  16. ^ "History of the Vote: M?ori and the Vote". Elections New Zealand. 9 April 2005. Archived from the original on 29 April 2007. Retrieved 2006. In the 1950s and 1960s the National government occasionally talked of abolishing the M?ori seats. Some politicians described special representation as a form of 'apartheid', like in South Africa. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  17. ^ Wilson, John. "Origin of the Maori Seats".
  18. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 8-9, 51, 119.
  19. ^ Tahana, Yvonne (29 September 2008). "National to dump Maori seats in 2014". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009.
  20. ^ "John Key: Dropping Maori seats would mean 'hikois from hell'". New Zealand Herald. 22 August 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  21. ^ Moir, Jo (16 July 2017). "Winston Peters delivers bottom-line binding referendum on abolishing Maori seats". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ "Maori seats outdated". Hobson's Choice. Retrieved 2016.
  23. ^ Burrows, Matt (28 September 2017). "Winston Peters hints at U-turn on M?ori seat referendum". Newshub. Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ Cheng, Derek (30 October 2017). "Anti-smacking referendum dropped during coalition negotiations". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Guy, Alice (21 October 2017). "Local kaumatua not surprised Maori seats will be retained". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ "General elections 1853-2005 - dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  27. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840-1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. pp. 157, 161, 163, 167.
  28. ^ "Maori Party suggests seat in Aust". Television New Zealand. Newstalk ZB. 1 October 2007. Retrieved 2011.
  29. ^ Maria Bargh, "Chapter 5.3: The M?ori Seats," pp 305-306.
  30. ^ "Marae DigiPoll1_02.03.08". TVNZ. 2 March 2008. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ Morgan Godfery, "Chapter 4.4: The M?ori Party," pp. 243-244.
  32. ^ Morgan Godfery, "Chapter 4.4: The M?ori Party," pp. 244-245.
  33. ^ Morgan Godfery, "Chapter 4.4: The M?ori Party," pp. 245-248.
  34. ^ Maria Bargh, "Chapter 5.3: The M?ori Seats," p. 305.
  35. ^ Bennett, Adam (21 September 2014). "Election 2014: Winston Peters hits out at National after big poll surge". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2014.
  36. ^ McQuillan, Laura (17 September 2014). "Key's subtle endorsement for Kelvin Davis". Newstalk ZB. Retrieved 2014.
  37. ^ "Davis picking up endorsements". Radio Waatea. 19 September 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  38. ^ Smith, Simon (20 September 2014). "Davis' win a critical blow for Harawira, Internet Mana". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2014.
  39. ^ Morgan Godfery, "Chapter 4.4: The M?ori Party," pp. 249.
  40. ^ "New Zealand 2014 General Election Official Results". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2017.
  41. ^ Moir, Jo (20 February 2017). "Hone Harawira gets clear Te Tai Tokerau run for Mana not running against Maori Party in other seats". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2017.
  42. ^ Huffadine, Leith (24 September 2017). "The Maori Party is out: Labour wins all Maori seats". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2017.

Further reading

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