In New Zealand politics, Māori electorates, colloquially known as the Māori seats, are a special category of electorate that give reserved positions to representatives of Māori in the New Zealand Parliament. Every area in New Zealand is covered by both a general and a Māori electorate; as of 2020, there are seven Māori electorates.[1][2] Since 1967, candidates in Māori electorates have not needed to be Māori themselves, but to register as a voter in the Māori electorates people need to declare that they are of Māori descent.[3]

Map of the seven Māori electorates
There have been seven Māori electorates in each general election since 2008.

The Māori electorates were introduced in 1867 under the Maori Representation Act.[4] They were created in order to give Māori a more direct say in parliament. The first Māori 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.[5] Despite numerous attempts to dismantle Māori electorates, they continue to form a distinct part of the New Zealand political landscape.[6]

Organisation Edit

Māori electorates operate much as do general electorates, but have as electors people who are Māori, or of Māori descent, (see Māori people § Demographics) and who choose to place their names on a separate electoral roll rather than on the "general roll".

There are two features of the Māori 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 'Māori voice'. This includes proficiency in the Māori language, knowledge of tikanga Māori, whakawhanaungatanga skills and confidence on the marae. Second, the geographical size of the Māori electoral boundaries vary significantly from the general electorates. Five to 18 general electorates fit into any one Māori electorate.[7]

Māori 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 Māori seat. Shortly after each census all registered Māori electors have the opportunity to choose whether they are included on the Māori or general electorate rolls.[8] From 31 March 2023, Māori electors will be able to change rolls at any time, except in the three months preceding a general or local election or after a notice of vacancy is issued for a by-election.[1] Each five-yearly census and Māori Electoral Option determines the number of Māori electorates for the next one or two elections.

Establishment Edit

The establishment of Māori 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.[6] Parliament passed the act after lengthy debate, and during a period of warfare between the government and some North Island Māori hapū and was seen as a way to reduce conflict between cultures.[9][10] Its primary aim was to enfranchise Maori who were indirectly excluded from parliament by the land ownership requirement. To vote, a person had to be male, a subject of the monarch, have title to land of at least 25 pounds, and not be in prison. Very few Maori qualified because of the property qualification - the land they owned was held in common and not by Crown grant: native title was not acceptable. Concern was raised that, indirectly, this ran contrary to section III of the Treaty of Waitangi which made all Maori subjects of the monarch with corresponding voting and representation rights.[7][11] The act originally agreed to set up four electorates specially for Māori; three in the North Island and one covering the whole South Island. The four seats were a fairly modest concession on a per-capita basis at the time.[12] Some MPs, such as James FitzGerald, regarded the concessions given to Māori as insufficient, while others disagreed. In the end, the setting up of Māori electorates separate from existing electorates assuaged the conservative opposition to the bill. The bill was intended as a temporary measure, giving specific representation to Māori until the land ownership issue was resolved. However, the Maori seats continued to become a permanent feature of the New Zealand parliament.[13][12]

The first four Māori members of parliament, elected in 1868, were Tāreha Te Moananui (Eastern Maori), Frederick Nene Russell (Northern Maori) and John Patterson (Southern Maori), who all retired in 1870; and Mete Kīngi Te Rangi Paetahi (Western Maori) who was defeated in 1871. These four men were the first New Zealand-born members of the New Zealand Parliament.[14] The second four members were Karaitiana Takamoana (Eastern Maori); Wi Katene (Northern Maori); Hōri Kerei Taiaroa (Southern Maori); and Wiremu Parata (Western Maori).[15]

The first Māori woman MP was Iriaka Rātana, who represented the Western Maori electorate. Like Elizabeth McCombs, New Zealand's first woman MP, Rātana won the seat in a by-election caused by the death of her husband Matiu in 1949.[16]

Elections Edit

Currently Māori 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 Māori elections than general elections, and the process received fewer resources. Māori 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 Māori electorates than to general electorates.

The authorities frequently delayed or overlooked reforms of the Māori electoral system, with Parliament considering the Māori electorates as largely unimportant. The gradual improvement of Māori elections owes much to long-serving Māori MP Eruera Tirikatene, who himself experienced problems in his own election. From the election of 1951 onwards, the voting for Māori and general electorates was held on the same day.[17]

Confusion around the Māori 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 Māori roll and insisting electors were unregistered when their names did not appear on the general roll; Electoral Commission staff giving incorrect information about the Māori electorates; electors being given incorrect voting forms and electors being told they were unable to vote for Te Pāti Māori (the Māori Party) unless they were on the Māori roll.[18]

Switching between rolls Edit

In June 2022, the Justice Minister Kris Faafoi of the incumbent Labour Party introduced a bill to allow people of Māori descent to switch between the general and Māori electoral rolls at any time. At the time, Māori were only allowed to switch between the two rolls every five years. To pass into law, the bill needed 75% majority support in Parliament. In addition, Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi introduced a member's bill which proposed that automatically placing Māori on the Māori electoral roll and renaming the "general electoral district" the "non-Māori electoral district."[19]

On 15 November 2022, the opposition National Party abandoned its opposition to the Māori Electoral Option bill after the Labour Government agreed to allow people of Māori descent to switch between the general and Māori rolls at any time except the three month period before general and local elections; giving the Government the 75% majority need to pass the bill into law. Te Pāti Māori criticised the compromise, with Waititi and fellow co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer describing the changes as "second-rate" and a "half pie ka pai" respectively. Waititi's member bill had already been voted down in early November.[20]

The Electoral (Māori Electoral Option) Legislation Act 2022 came into force on 31 March 2023; allowing people of Māori descent to switch between the general and Māori rolls at anytime until the three month period before elections. The Electoral Commission subsequently launched a campaign to encourage non-voters to register with either the general or Māori rolls.[21] For the 2023 New Zealand general election, the cutoff date was set at midnight 13 July 2023.[22] By 3 July 2023, over 12,000 people had switched between the Māori and general rolls; with 6,662 people shifting from the general to Māori rolls and 5,652 switching vice versa. [23] Political expert and academic Dr Rawiri Taonui and journalist Tommy de Silva described that the increase of voters on the Māori roll as a form of strategic voting that reinforced the relevance of the Māori seats and Māori vote to New Zealand politics.[24][25]

Calls for abolition Edit

Periodically there have been calls for the abolition of the Māori electorates. The electorates aroused controversy even at the time of their origin, and given their intended temporary nature, there have been 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 Māori, while others have seen them as discriminatory and offensive.

Early 20th century Edit

In 1902, a consolidation of electoral law prompted considerable discussion of the Māori 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 Māori MPs had supported the governing Liberal Party, which had held power since 1891. Many MPs alleged frequent cases of corruption in elections for the Māori electorates. Other MPs, however, supported the abolition of Māori electorates for different reasons – Frederick Pirani, a member of the Liberal Party, said that the absence of Māori voters from general electorates prevented "pākehā members of the House from taking that interest in Māori matters that they ought to take".[citation needed] The Māori MPs, however, mounted a strong defence of the electorates, with Wi Pere depicting guaranteed representation in parliament as one of the few rights Māori 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 Māori Affairs, James Carroll, supported proposals for the abolition of Māori electorates, pointing to the fact that he himself had won the general electorate of Waiapu. Other Māori MPs, such as Hōne Heke Ngāpua, remained opposed. In the end, proposals for the abolition or reform of Māori electorates did not proceed.[citation needed]

Mid-20th century Edit

Four long-standing representatives of the Māori electorates, pictured in the 1970s. From left to right: Koro Wētere (Western Maori), Matiu Rata (Northern Maori), Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (Southern Maori) and Paraone Reweti (Eastern Maori).

Considerably later, in 1953, the first ever major re-alignment of Māori electoral boundaries occurred, addressing inequalities in voter numbers. Again, the focus on Māori electorates prompted further debate about their existence. The National Party government of the day had a commitment to the assimilation of Māori, and had no Māori MPs, and many believed that they would abolish the electorates. However, the government had other matters to attend to, and the issue of the Māori electorates gradually faded from view without any changes. Regardless, the possible abolition of the Māori 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 Māori was described by some politicians "as a form of 'apartheid', like in South Africa".[26]

In 1967, the electoral system whereby four electorate seats were reserved for representatives who were specifically Māori ended. Following the Electoral Amendment Act 1967, the 100-year-old disqualification preventing Europeans from standing as candidates in Māori electorates was removed. Simultaneously, the act allowed Māori to stand in general electorates. Since 1967, therefore, there has not been any electoral guarantee of representation by candidates who have Māori descent. While this still means that those elected to represent Māori electors in the Māori electorates are directly accountable to those voters,[clarification needed] those representatives are not required to be Māori themselves.[27]

In 1976, Muldoon's National Government introduced the option for Māori to decide whether to enrol individually on the general electoral roll or the Māori roll.[28] A large number of people (Māori and non-Māori) failed to fill out an electoral re-registration card that was distributed with the 1976 census, with census staff lacking authority to insist on the card being completed. This had little practical effect for non-Māori, but it transferred Māori to the general roll if the card was not handed in.[28] Only 40% of the potential population registered on the Māori roll. This reduced the number of calls for the abolition of Māori electorates, as many presumed that Māori would eventually abandon the Māori electorates of their own accord.[citation needed]

Current positions Edit

A number of currently active political parties oppose, or have opposed, the existence of Māori electorates.

National Party Edit

The National Party has advocated abolition of the Māori electorates, though as of 2021 the party is not opposed to the seats. National did not stand candidates in Māori electorate from the 2005 election through the 2020 election. Bill English, the party's leader in 2003, said that "the purpose of the Māori seats has come to an end", and in 2004 party leader Don Brash called the electorates an "anachronism".[29] National announced in 2008 it would abolish the electorates when all historic treaty settlements have been resolved, which it aimed to complete by 2014.[30] In 2014 though, then-Prime Minister John Key ruled out the abolition, saying he would not do it even if he had the numbers to do so as there would be "hikois from hell".[31] In 2020, party leader Judith Collins announced that "I am not opposed to the Māori seats. The National Party has had a view for many years now that they should be done away with. But I just want people to feel that they all have opportunities for representation".[32] In 2021, it was revealed that the National Party intended to run candidates in Māori electorates in the next general election.[29]

ACT Party Edit

The ACT Party opposes the Māori electorates. Its leader, David Seymour, has called for their abolishment as recently as 2019.[33] Hobson's Pledge, a lobby group founded by former ACT Party leader Don Brash, advocates abolishing the allocated Māori electorates, seeing them as outdated.[34]

New Zealand First Edit

New Zealand First, who once held all Māori seats (see Tight Five), has advocated for abolition of the separate electorates but says that the Māori voters should make the decision. During the 2017 election campaign, the New Zealand First leader Winston Peters announced that if elected his party would hold a binding referendum on whether Maori electorates should be abolished.[35] During post-election negotiations with the Labour Party, Peters indicated that he would consider dropping his call for a referendum on the Māori electorates due to the defeat of the Māori Party at the 2017 election.[36] In return for forming a government with the Labour Party, New Zealand First agreed to drop its demand for the referendum.[37][38]

Number of electorates Edit

From 1868 to 1996, four Māori electorates existed (out of a total that slowly changed from 76 to 99).[39] They comprised:[40]

  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 Māori electorates changed. Today, the number of electorates floats, meaning that the electoral population of a Māori seat can remain roughly equivalent to that of a general seat. In the first MMP vote (the 1996 election), the Electoral Commission defined five Māori 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)

A sixth Māori electorate was added for the second MMP election in 1999:

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

Since 2002, there have been seven Māori electorates. For the 2002 and 2005 elections, these were:

  1. Ikaroa-Rāwhiti
  2. Tainui
  3. Tāmaki Makaurau (roughly equivalent to greater Auckland)
  4. Te Tai Hauāuru
  5. Te Tai Tokerau
  6. Te Tai Tonga
  7. Waiariki

From 2008, Tainui was largely replaced by Hauraki-Waikato, giving the following seven Māori electorates:

  1. Hauraki-Waikato – North Western North Island, includes Hamilton and Papakura.
  2. Ikaroa-Rāwhiti – East and South North Island, includes Gisborne and Masterton.
  3. Tāmaki Makaurau – South, Central and parts of West Auckland.
  4. Te Tai Hauāuru – Western North Island, includes Taranaki and Manawatū-Whanganui regions.
  5. Te Tai Tokerau – Northernmost seat, includes Whangārei, North and parts of West Auckland.
  6. Te Tai Tonga – All of South Island, Stewart Island / Rakiura, Chatham Islands, most of Wellington. Largest electorate by area.
  7. Waiariki – Includes Tauranga, Whakatāne, Rotorua, Taupō.

While seven out of 72 (9.7%) does not nearly reflect the proportion of voting-age New Zealanders who identify as being of Māori descent (about 14.8%), many Māori choose to enroll in general electorates, so the proportion reflects the proportion of voters on the Māori roll.

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

Former Māori Party co-leader Pita Sharples proposed the creation of an additional electorate, for Māori living in Australia, where there are between 115,000 and 125,000 Māori, the majority living in Queensland.[41]

Party politics Edit

As Māori electorates originated before the development of political parties in New Zealand, all early Māori MPs functioned as independents. When the Liberal Party formed, however, Māori MPs began to align themselves with the new organisation, with either Liberal candidates or Liberal sympathisers as representatives. Māori MPs in the Liberal Party included James Carroll, Āpirana Ngata and Te Rangi Hīroa. There were also Māori 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 Māori electorates. For a long period this dominance owed much to Labour's alliance with the Rātana Church, although the Rātana influence has diminished in recent times. In the 1993 election, however, the new New Zealand First party, led by Winston Peters – who himself held the general seat of Tauranga from 1984 to 2005 – gained the Northern Māori seat (electing Tau Henare to Parliament), and in the 1996 election New Zealand First captured all the Māori electorates for one electoral term. Labour regained the electorates in the following election in the 1999 election.[7]

A development of particular interest to Māori came in 2004 with the resignation of Tariana Turia from her ministerial position in the Labour-dominated coalition and from her Te Tai Hauāuru parliamentary seat. In the resulting by-election on 10 July 2004, standing under the banner of the newly formed Māori 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.[42]

The Māori Party aimed to win all seven Māori electorates in 2005. A Marae-Digipoll survey of Māori-roll voters in November 2004 gave it hope: 35.7% said they would vote for a Māori Party candidate, 26.3% opted for Labour, and five of the seven electorates appeared ready to fall to the new party.[43] In the election, the new party won four of the Māori electorates. It seemed possible that Māori 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.[44]

Similarly in 2008, the Māori Party aimed to win all seven Māori 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 Māori Party, it invited the Māori Party to support their minority government on confidence and supply in return for policy concessions and two ministerial posts outside of Cabinet. The Māori Party signed a confidence and supply agreement with National on the condition that the Māori electorates were not abolished unless the Māori 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 Whānau Ora indigenous health initiative.[45]

Discontentment with the Māori Party's support agreement with National particularly the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill 2011 led the party's Te Tai Tokerau Member Hone Harawira to secede from the Māori Party and form the radical left-wing Mana Movement. During the 2011 general election, the Māori Party retained three of the Māori electorates while Labour increased its share of the Māori electorates to three, taking Te Tai Tonga. The Mana Movement retained Te Tai Tokerau. Tensions between the Māori Party and Mana Movement combined with competition from the Labour Party fragmented the Māori political voice in Parliament.[46][47]

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 Māori Party.[48][49][50][51] During the 2014 election, Labour captured six of the Māori electorates with the Māori Party being reduced to co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell's Waiariki electorate.[52] The Māori Party managed to bring a second member co-leader Marama Fox into Parliament as their party vote entitled them to one further list seat.[53]

During the 2017 general election, the Māori Party formed an electoral pact with the Mana Movement leader and former Māori Party MP Hone Harawira not to contest Te Tai Tokerau as part of a deal to regain the Māori electorates from the Labour Party.[54] Despite these efforts, Labour captured all seven of the Māori electorates with Labour candidate Tāmati Coffey unseating Māori Party co-leader Flavell in Waiariki.[55]

Party representation in the Māori seats following the 2020 general election

Three years later, despite a historic landslide to the Labour party, Māori party candidate Rawiri Waititi successfully unseated Coffey, returning the Māori Party to Parliament. Special votes raised the Māori Party vote from a provisional result of 1%[56] to a final party vote of 1.2%, thus allowing co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, to enter Parliament as a List MP.[57]

Outside New Zealand Edit

The scheme has inspired some policymakers as a potential solution for other underrepresented indigenous peoples.[58]

Australia Edit

In Australia, some have put forward the idea of dedicating seats to Australian Aboriginals. In 1983, Frank Walker, the then NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, proposed that each state send one Aboriginal Senator to the federal Parliament, and also the creation of four Aboriginal electorates for the NSW Legislative Assembly.[59]

In 1995, MLC Franca Arena moved the Parliament of New South Wales to an inquiry and report on the idea of providing seats dedicated to people of Aboriginal background, modeled on the Māori electorates, so as to allow for hitherto unseen indigenous representation in that Parliament.[60] The Standing Committee on Social Issues, of which she wasn't part, released a report on the merits of the system in November 1998.[61] The report is said to have been well-researched, with a thorough discussion of the systems' mechanics, and through which paths it could come to light.[62] The NSW Government members, however, did not conclude the proposal appropriate and leaned towards other measures to facilitate Aborigine representation.[61]

Another report was released in 2003 by the Legislative Assembly of Queensland's Legal, Constitutional and Administrative Review Committee,[62] inquiring how to help indigenous self-determination. The idea of dedicated seats, however, although deemed to help reconciliation, was not suggested by the report because of strong opposition from some members of the committee.[62]

See also Edit

References Edit

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  2. ^ "Number of Electorates and Electoral Populations: 2013 Census". Stats NZ. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  3. ^ "About the Māori Electoral Option". Electoral Commission New Zealand. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Maori Representation Act 1867". Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Representation Act 1867".
  6. ^ a b Wilson, John (31 May 2009) [November 2003]. "The Origins of the Māori Seats". Wellington: New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Bargh 2015, pp. 302–303.
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  11. ^ Joseph, Philip A. (2008). Te Oranga o te Iwi Maori: A Study of Maori Economic and Social Progress - The Maori Seats in Parliament (PDF). New Zealand Business Roundtable. ISBN 9781877394195.
  12. ^ a b "Setting up the Māori seats". Maori and the Vote. New Zealand History. p. 2.
  13. ^ "The origins of the Māori seats". New Zealand Parliament – Pāremata Aotearoa.
  14. ^ Scholefield, Guy, ed. (1940). A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography : M–Addenda (PDF). Vol. II. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  15. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "1. – Ngā māngai – Māori representation – Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 26 May 2018.
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  17. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 138.
  18. ^ Kupenga, Talisa (17 September 2017). "Polling booth staff mislead and confuse Māori voters". Te Ao Māori News. Māori Television. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  19. ^ Tahana, Jamie (9 June 2023). "Electoral law proposal would allow Māori to fully exercise voting rights - Faafoi". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 10 July 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Dexter, Giles (15 November 2022). "Government reaches compromise with National on electoral law change". Radio New Zealand. Retrieved 10 July 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  46. ^ Godfery 2015, pp. 245–248.
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Further reading Edit