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Greens call on Labour to protect Maori seats

Greens call on Labour to protect Maori seats

The Green Party is calling on Labour to support legislative protection for the Maori seats, in the face of the latest attack by National leader, Bill English.

"Maori representation in Parliament is now under threat by the right-wing parties," Green Co-Leader Rod Donald warned today. "National, ACT and New Zealand First are all calling for the abolition of the Maori seats, while United Future has given a good indication of its position by opposing Maori seats in local government.

"That now means that the parties of the right are just four votes away from abolishing the Maori seats.

"We are calling on the Government to give Maori seats the same protection under the Electoral Act that the general seats now enjoy. That is, they can only be abolished through a referendum or through the vote of a three-quarter majority of Parliament.

"Maori themselves effectively hold a referendum on the seats every five years through the Maori electoral option. On the last occasion, more than 29,000 people chose to add their names to the Maori roll. That makes 194,000 people now on the Maori roll who clearly support the retention of the Maori seats.

"The Royal Commission recommended that Parliament and the Government enter into wide consultation on protecting the rights of Maori and recognising their constitutional position under the Treaty, before any abolition of Maori seats.

"Now is a good time for that debate to begin," said Rod Donald. "But any decision on the Maori seats must come as a result of that discussion, rather than from the racially divisive dogma of a party that has been utterly rejected by Maori voters.

"Bill English has no credibility in calling for the abolition of the Maori seats when his party has failed to select Maori candidates for winnable general seats and only has one Maori list MP."

Note: General seats are defined in Section 35 of the Electoral Act, Maori seats in Section 45 and Protection Provisions in Section 268.

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