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Protection Of The Maori Seats

Protection Of The Maori Seats: Maori Party

‘Like the Treaty of Waitangi, the Maori Parliamentary seats stand as an enduring symbol of their constitutional status - and historic statements of principle, like symbols, are essential tools in re-building our national identity’

Chief Judge Durie

Paper given at Conference on ‘The Position of Indigenous People in National Constitutions’.

Policy Principles

- The particular status of the Maori Parliamentary seats will be protected until such time as there is a broader and more meaningful process of constitutional change; or Maori freely choose through a tangata whenua referendum; to abolish the seats.

- We promote the entrenchment of section 45 of the Electoral Act. [Section 35, which defines the General seats, is currently entrenched but section 45, which defines the Maori seats, does not currently provide for entrenchment].

- We promote the entrenchment of the legislation requiring the implementation of a

- binding tangata whenua referendum (75% majority) and

- the vote of at least 75% of the House to ensure amendment.


The grounds upon which this policy is based are three fold -

(a) The Treaty argument ensuring that as parties to the Treaty Maori should at least be guaranteed representation in the organs of kawanatanga.

(b) The Treaty and human rights self determination argument that Maori must make the decisions about Maori representation.

(c) The international rights argument, especially under Article 19 of the UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states

- “Indigenous Peoples have the right to participate fully, if they so choose, at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures…”

Maori Desire to Retain the Maori Electoral Seats

In spite of their inauspicious and indeed undemocratic beginnings Maori now regard those seats as the only guarantee of at least a minimal degree of representation. The Electoral Act 1993, and its predecessor, the Maori Representation Act, 1867, have provided for a separate Maori polity in the form of a separate Maori electoral roll.

In 2005, a major disparity between the Mäori and general electoral systems remains.

The exclusion of the system of Mäori representation from the entrenched provisions of the 1956 Electoral Act, is described by Professor Ranginui Walker as

“perhaps the most discriminatory measure of all in the application of the law to Mäori representation.”

The 1986 electoral system Royal Commission recommended the Maori seats be abolished, but Maori opposed the move. Maori already on a roll can opt to change only once every five years when the Maori electoral option is run. The next option runs in 2006.

Although the provisions of the 1956 Act were mostly superseded by those of the 1993 Electoral Act, the provisions regulating the general electorate seats are entrenched in the 1993 Act, while those concerning Mäori representation are not. What this means in practical effect is that all the sections containing provisions related to Maori representation can be repealed by a simple majority in the House.

These provisions are: the definition of Mäori, the Mäori electoral districts, the Mäori electoral population, the Mäori electoral option and Mäori electoral rolls (Sections 3(1), 45, 76-79 and 84); and the supply of electoral information to "designated bodies" (Sections 111C-112). By contrast, any change to the provisions relating to the general electorate seats requires either a 75% majority in the House of Representatives, or a referendum.

The level of protection for the Maori electoral seats is therefore highly discriminatory. The policy position announced today is to address the matter of discrimination, and ensure that Maori enjoy equality under the law.


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