Maori seats should be ‘entrenched’ or scrapped?

Last week a bill seeking to ‘entrench’ the Māori seats in Parliament was drawn from the members’ ballot last week. Are the Māori seats an important part of our democracy, or outdated and unnecessary under MMP?

RNZ: Bill to protect Māori seats selected

The Electoral Entrenchment of Maori Seats Ammendment Bill introduced by Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene ensures Māori seats have the same protections as general electorates seats.

Mr Tirikatane said that under the Electoral Act the provisions establishing the general electorates are entrenched, meaning only a 75 percent majority can overturn them.

However, only a majority of 51 per cent is needed to abolish Māori seats.

Mr Tirikatene said the bill was about fixing the constitution.

“We should be able to have equal protection just like the general seats.”

The protection of Māori electoral seats was vital, Mr Tirikatene said.

“I think they’re unique to Aotearoa, it symbolises our Treaty of Waitangi partnership and they’ve been a long standing, important part of our parliamentary democracy.”

‘Entrenchment’ is a curious term to use here. If the bill passes it would make it a lot harder to get a big enough vote in Parliament to scrap the Māori seats so it may effectively entrench them, but it doesn’t guarantee they would always be retained.

Entrenchment (Oxford):

1 [with object] Establish (an attitude, habit, or belief) so firmly that change is very difficult or unlikely.

1.1 Establish (someone) in a position of great strength or security.

‘by 1947 de Gaulle’s political opponents were firmly entrenched in power’

1.2 Apply extra legal safeguards to (a right guaranteed by legislation)‘steady progress was made in entrenching the individual rights of noblemen’

2 [with object] Establish (a military force) in trenches or other fortified positions.

Origin: Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘place within a trench’): from en-, in- ‘into’ + trench.

Labour currently have about 37% of the vote in Parliament, and 100% of the Māori seats, they would easily stop them from being scrapped if a 75% vote was required. Greens also support retaining the Māori seats, and while National have previously had a policy to scrap them they have softened on this.

Winston Peters and therefore NZ First have strongly supported scrapping the seats.

So does Barry Soper: Seven Maori seats are obsolete

The seven Maori seats in Parliament should be scrapped. The need for them has long passed.

Originally they were only meant to be there for five years to give Maori the right to vote in the general election 150 years ago this year. That was extended by another five years but in 1876 it was extended indefinitely.

The Royal Commission, which proposed our MMP electorate system, said if it was adopted the Maori seats should go. It rightly argued that under MMP all parties would have to pay attention to Maori voters and their concerns and they felt their continued existence would marginalise those concerns.

Around that time the seats came the closest they’ve ever come to abolition with an Electoral Reform Bill, but it failed after strong opposition from Maori.

The seats have been something of a political football ever since. The First MMP election in 1996 saw them all going to New Zealand First, which lost the lot of them just three years later. At the last election Winston Peters promised a binding referendum to consider their abolition and on reducing the number of MPs to 100. His coalition deal with Labour’s put paid to that.

Before the 2008 election John Key promised to get rid of the seats but in his first coalition deal embraced the Maori Party which served as National’s insurance policy right up until the last election.

And today there are the most Maori MPs ever in Parliament, 29 with our indigenous culture’s heritage, or 24 percent of Parliament and most coming from the general electorate roll.

All of the political leaders with the exception of Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw lay claim to Maori heritage. So surely Maori are, or should be, better catered for then ever before.

The seats have become redundant, other than a political crutch for Labour, they serve no purpose and rather than entrenching them, Parliament should be doing away with them.

Should the seats be protected for Māori, or are they give an unfair electoral advantage to Labour?

Is this a real problem, or a self interested jack-up?

Would Tirikatene be an MP if there were no Māori seats? Possibly now via Labour’s list, but probably now not if he hadn’t already been an MP.

The bill would require the support of NZ First or National to pass, so it seems far from guaranteed.

What about public support? 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll August 2017:

  • Should be kept 55%
  • Should be abolished 13%
  • Should be abolished some time in the future 23%

Is the Tirikatene bill trying to fix something that isn’t broken?




  1. Gezza

     /  7th May 2018

    Definitely should be entrenched. Should have the same protections as apply to the General seats.

    Barry Soper has now become a well-known idiot & stirrer so his opinion can be automatically discounted.

    Actually, given the inherent unfairness & logistical difficulty of expecting so few MPS to represent so many different iwi over such huge numbers of rohe there should really be more Maori seats, so entrenching them is the bloody least we can do.

    • sorethumb

       /  7th May 2018

      So you think there should be an PM for each Iwi?

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th May 2018

      Can’t be entrenched anyway. Parliament just has to revoke this Act first and then remove them both with 51% vote in favour. All window dressing and an attempt to protect Labour’s hold on them.

  2. Griff

     /  7th May 2018

    Nothing like a man whose job depends on special privilege seeking to keep that privilege going as long as possible.

    Out dated and needless distortion of democracy in this country based on racist lines.

    They should only remain as long as the majority of persons who have any Maori blood are on the Maori roll.

  3. sorethumb

     /  7th May 2018

    My father is of English, Irish and Māori heritage. He is dark skinned, can understand Te Reo but is not a fluent speaker: he is Māori. My mother however is of English, Irish and Nordic heritage. She is light skinned, and can recall the Bennett whakapapa with more confidence than I can: she is not Māori.

    I am a proud product of these two people: English, Irish, Nordic and Māori. I am light skinned with dark hair. I know mihi but cannot speak fluent Te Reo. I grew up in the Tamaki Electorate in Auckland, went to public school, and visited my marae (Ohinemutu) for reunions and tangi: I am an urbanised Māori. Why is this important? Because often it is the urban Maori that find themselves feeling like ‘Plastics’.

    • Gezza

       /  7th May 2018

      Can I take this is yout vote in favour of entenching the Maori seats?

      • Gezza

         /  7th May 2018

        God I hate this FiP sometimes.

      • sorethumb

         /  7th May 2018

        No I’m pointing out that many Maori are more Pakeha than Maori.

        • Gezza

           /  7th May 2018

          Well fair enuf too – if they feel more 👋🏼 than 👋🏾 they obviously just vote on the General Roll. ✅ All good. 👍🏼

  4. PartisanZ

     /  7th May 2018

    “The Royal Commission, which proposed our MMP electorate system, said if it was adopted the Maori seats should go. It rightly argued that under MMP all parties would have to pay attention to Maori voters and their concerns and they felt their continued existence would marginalise those concerns.”

    Strange … “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.” – Wikipedia … resulting today in 7 Maori seats.

    The Royal Commission, it might be argued, wanted Royal or more correctly ‘Crown’ prerogative to prevail, calling for both the abolition of Maori seats and setting the List threshold too high for singularly ‘Maori’ parties to win representation? Leaving it only to larger, basically Pakeha parties to field Maori candidates …

    I’d have opposed that too …

    • Griff

       /  7th May 2018

      The Commission unanimously recommended the adoption of mixed member proportional, with a threshold of 4% and that a referendum be held before or at the 1987 election.

      They also recommended that the Māori seats be abolished, with Māori parties instead receiving representation if they did not pass the threshold.

      That the number of MPs raise to 120 (although they considered 140 would be ideal, they realised that it would receive too much public backlash).

      The term of Parliament be raised to four years.

  5. Trevors_Elbow

     /  7th May 2018

    so….. why are these seats needed again? Maori are on Party lists in very winnable positions, they contest general seats and win…. Parliament has plenty of Maori voices…

    The population of NZ has ever more citizens with Maori lineage…their voice is heard fine inside and outside Parliament

    So… what is the NEED for these seats, aside from being the playthings of the old Maori Feudal hierarchy?

    • Blazer

       /  7th May 2018

      retention on the same basis as the House of Lords would be one… argument.i.e unique to NZ.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  7th May 2018

        The House of Lords is in need of drastic reform if not abolition.

      • Trevors_Elbow

         /  7th May 2018

        The House of Lords is anachronism and should be ditched. Upper Houses are an interesting concept and have pros & cons. But a House of Lords is just not needed. Looking at the Australian Senate not sure Upper Houses play a particularly constructive role to be fair….

        unique to NZ is not a valid reason for a race based set of seats in a country of mixed lineage like NZ…

        Gone anything else?

        And to the down tickers….. I have asked a question – set out your reasoning for retention in the 21st century….Don’t be shy, lets hear/read your views…

        • Blazer

           /  7th May 2018

          you will want an egalitarian society…next!Bol.

          • Trevors_Elbow

             /  7th May 2018

            I always have taken that position…. just not a socialist one. Succeed on your own ability BOL is my mantra, pretty simple if you had paid attention

            • Blazer

               /  7th May 2018

              Socialists believe in competition,risk and reward and merit,despite propaganda to the contrary.They do not believe in entrenched entitlement,class distinction and …old boy networks and corporate welfare.A level playing field …is a rare…thing.

            • Trevors_Elbow

               /  7th May 2018

              Socialists believe in competition… you’re having a laugh son!

              Unions – stop competition for jobs as a second string to their bow after collective bargaining

              Teacher Unions have visited NCEA on us – to avoid competition plus the whole everyone gets an award approach to Sports…. VERY competitive..

              Self Avowed Socialist Party NZ Labour – tried to give us NZ Power, stifles competition where ever it can and has a history of nationalising industry…

            • High Flying Duck

               /  7th May 2018

              From the Socialists of Great Britain:

              “Cooperation not Competition

              Socialism implies a world based on co-operation, on people all pulling in the same direction. Nobody will be forced to be competitive, rather everyone will produce for human need without fear of being out-competed. Likewise the establishment of Socialism requires co-operation, requires the world’s working class to combine in a movement aimed at getting rid of the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism.”


              Sounds a wonderful theory, but cooperation becomes meaningless without the competitive element to drive progress.

            • Grimm

               /  7th May 2018

              “Socialists believe in competition,risk and reward and merit”

              You really do have no clue about any of the positions you take. How does collective control of the economy lead to competition, risk and reward?

            • Blazer

               /  7th May 2018

              you are a great one to talk.Socialism is similar to Capitalism in that it has different shades if you like.
              Capitalist doctrine in theory lauds the free market but in reality doesn’t come close to adherence to it.
              Capitalists abhor reliance on the state,except when it comes to corporate welfare…
              I could go on,but even you may understand….reality.

            • Blazer

               /  7th May 2018

              Capitalists hate competition.Monopoly is the aim of business,just like the game,buy ,buy and rent to the ..’losers’.Socialism knows, one person maybe able to run faster than another,or be better or worse at a whole range of things.Socialism wants a level playing ..field and an equitable distribution of…wealth.

  6. The threshold shouldn’t just be scrapped for Maori parties, it should be scrapped for all parties. There are other minorities that are denied representation by the current jacked up large party protecting threshold.

  7. Corky

     /  7th May 2018

    Scraped..if you want equality . Entrench them if you want simmering resentment from more than a few people who wont state their opposition publicly.

    • Gezza

       /  8th May 2018

      Winston trying to claw back a few lost redneck votes.

    • PartisanZ

       /  8th May 2018

      Winston has already reneged on his Maori seats ‘prohibition’ legislation, plus some other pre-election “bottom-lines”, and consequently he’s lost the ‘Right Brigade’ vote forever, which almost certainly means the extinction of his party at the next election.

      He, Jones and NZFirst have got nothing whatsoever to lose in voting FOR Tirikatene’s Bill except the affirmation of the coalition government they formed and are part of.

      This is the politics of “dumb and dumber”.

  1. Maori seats should be ‘entrenched’ or scrapped? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition