Jul 8, 2013

The Maori seats: submit!

Here's my submission on the Maori seats. Feel free to use this as a guide but please don't copy and paste. My submission on the Bill of Rights (posted the week before last) is here with a few rules for submission writing. 

This is the draft version. I need to expand in places, reference, add macrons and so on. The guts of it is here, though. 


1.    The Maori seats must be retained.

1.1  The Maori electorates embody the Treaty partnership between Maori and the Crown.
1.2  The Maori electorates represent constitutional recognition of Maori as tangata whenua and act as a constitutional safeguard for Maori interests.
1.3  The Maori electorates are, after 146 years in existence, an inalienable right and are part of the fabric of Te Ao Maori. 
1.4  Retention or abolition is a decision for Maori voters.
1.5  The Maori seats are not an affirmative action measure. The Maori seats are an expression of the guarantee to “rangatiratanga” in Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi.

2.    The Maori seats must be entrenched.

2.1  Entrenchment will insulate the Maori seats against majority tyranny or the unprincipled use of an ordinary Parliamentary majority.
2.2  The provisions in the Electoral Act 1993 that regulate general electorates are entrenched. The provisions regulating Maori electorates are not. The difference in treatment cannot be justified.
2.3  Dr. Ranginui Walker argued that the Electoral Act 1956 – which did not entrench the provisions regulating Maori electorates but did entrench the provisions regulating general electorates – was “perhaps the most discriminatory measure of all in the application of the law to Māori representation”. He was right and the criticism also applies to the Electoral Act 1993. (Walker, 1992).
2.4  In obiter remarks in Taiaroa v Ministry of Justice McGeChan J held that the Maori electorates are a “Treaty icon” and are “entirely consistent with the Treaty”. That is correct. As an expression of the Treaty, the Maori electorates must be entrenched.
2.5  The provisions regulating the Maori electorates are constitutional provisions. Constitutional provisions must be afforded the highest protection (i.e. entrenchment).

3.    The Purpose of the Maori electorates must be clarified.

3.1  There is a misconception that the Maori electorates are concerned with achieving equal representation for Maori (i.e. electoral equality). This is not the Maori electorate’s contemporary rationale.
3.2  The Maori electorates protect Maori interests in the electoral system and are an expression of the Treaty partnership.
3.3  The Maori electorates allow Maori to participate as Maori in an electoral system that is, in all other respects, a western system.
3.4  Maori have been beneficiaries of MMP, though only in the sense that Maori representation in Parliament is equal to and in some Parliamentary terms greater than the Maori share of the population. However, proportional representation has not guaranteed that Maori interests are adequately protected. The Maori electorates have.  

4.    The Maori option must be extended.

4.1  The existing five month window too short. The window should be extended to six months or longer.
4.2  A provision imposing a positive obligation on the government of the day to “effectively” (rather than “reasonably”) advertise the Maori electoral option must be enacted.
4.3  I support in principle the private members bill from Te Ururoa Flavell MP that would automatically enrol New Zealanders of Maori descent on the Maori electoral roll.

5.    Dedicated Maori representation in local government must be investigated.

5.1  I accept that it would be wrong in principle to impose dedicated Maori representation on local governments.
5.2  However, dedicated representation must be discussed. Maori interests are not adequately protected at local government level.
5.3  Provisions regarding Maori input in the Local Government Act 2002, the Resource Management Act 1991 and so on are inadequate. Maori interests must not only be heard, but be afforded the appropriate weight.

5.4  Where dedicated Maori representation is rejected, local governments must be compelled to investigate alternative methods that include Maori perspectives in the decision-making process.  


  1. I assume you haven't sent this through yet, so:

    The Maori option is four months :-)

    Justice McGeChan?

    Your claim that the Maori seats have ensured that Maori interests are adequately protected is somewhat at odds with many other posts here which suggest that Maori interests are quite often not protected at all.

    Entrenchment of the Maori seats may stop a parliamentary majority messing with the seats, but a simple majority is all that is needed at a referendum, so I'm not sure your claim that entrenchment would protect the seats "against majority tyranny" can be justified.

    I'm not sure that the Maori seats being inalienable can be married with the idea that retention or abolition of the seats should be a decision for Maori voters. If they are truly inalienable, even Maori voters couldn't get rid of them.

    Have you considered looking at whether STV is more likely to result in Maori representation on councils?

    1. I was hoping you'd correct any mistakes :-)

      My position is this: the Maori seats are a better protection of Maori interests than other mechanisms in the electoral system. Far from ideal (which is not so much a reflection on the seats or MMP themselves, but the monopoly and "political neglect" (Mulgan, 1994) that they suffered under a Labour monopoly). I don't think I've been critical of the seats themselves - certainly not in principle - but rather the parties and politicians that control them.

      I think the entrenchment point can be sustained. Although a simple majority in a referendum can abolish the seats, I see the likelihood of a referendum being low (I can imagine a downward trend in the numbers on the Maori roll leading to the abolition of the seats before I can see a referendum abolishing them).

      Point taken over inalienability, though. I will reword that.

      I hadn't considered STV - my thinking had been focused on Maori wards (like the Bay of Plenty Regional Council model). Thanks for mentioning it. Do you think it would be a better way to achieve diversity than, say, the BOPRC model?

    2. Certainly better in some senses, depending on the size of the electorates. The block vote/first past the post system currently used for most councils means that a plurality can easily lead to a majority, and a majority can lead to unanimity.

      If we have single seat electorates, or electorates where everyone gets as many votes as there are vacancies, then if everyone votes for someone who is representative of them, you get representatives who are only representative of the majority. STV is a proportional system (although how well this works depends on the numbers elected from each electorate). In a block vote system, 20% support (e.g. for a minority candidate) may well not get you any seats. Under STV, there's a pretty good chance it will get you, if not quite 20% of the seats, possibly close to it.

  2. With regards to your last section. When the Auckland Supercity was being formed there was talk at one point of having the local govt electoral boundaries roughly aligned with the national electoral boundaries - giving Auckland council around 20 seats including 1-2 Maori seats.
    Instead they decided not to use the Maori roll at all and just have an unelected Maori board/panel instead. This seems counter to the idea of 'one person one vote' (whereas the Maori seats is consistent with 'one person one vote' while still ensuring representation).

  3. It seems that an obligation that Maori seats be 'discussed' is likely to result in Councils simply going through the motions, and the requirement to include Maori perspectives could be claimed to be satisfied by allowing Maori participation in public forums.

  4. "I support in principle the private members bill from Te Ururoa Flavell MP that would automatically enrol New Zealanders of Maori descent on the Maori electoral roll."

    I can see this as potentially problematic. The current system is not based on any specific share of Maori ancestry but on having cultural identification as Maori. To me moving away from this risks opening up the whole 'blood quantum' can of worms and I'm not sure that is useful.
    There are people who have almost exclusively Maori ancestry and tribal affiliations who choose to be on the general roll and you have people with very distant Maori ancestry or tribal affiliations who have a strong cultural affiliation with their Maori side who choose to be on the Maori roll.
    In the absence of any government superdatabase of everyones ethnicities dating back many generations (which I think and hope does not exist!). I presume this automatic enrolment policy would be driven off the 'identification' information provided by a persons parents, grandparents and great grandparents to the electoral commision and would include all people with any Maori identification at all in their history whether they like it or not.
    Opting a broad swathe of New Zealand society onto the Maori roll in a hereditory fashion regardless of their personal cultural identification or their views on Tino Rangatiratanga and Maori representation etc I would think weakens rather than strengthens the meaningfulness of the Maori seats as a tool for Maori political expression.
    The current system of allowing people to choose the Maori roll as a political expression of their Maori heritage and identity seems preferable.
    However, I'm open to being persuaded otherwise and I'd be curious to hear your arguments as to why you think in principle it is a good idea.

  5. Hey Richard29 - that's right. The current system is calculated on the Maori descent population. However, I don't see that as being problematic. In comparison to the former systems (e.g. the half-caste or more measure), it's superior. Descent is a closer concept to whakapapa than blood quantum.

    Maori descent is determined by your own self-identification (e.g. in the census) rather than the Electoral Commission making judgements predicated on your parents (or grandparents) identification or some other form of identification.

    The bill would automatically enrol new enrollers (i.e. those turning 18). Those of Maori descent turning 18, most have enrolled on the Maori roll. However, that has been largely offset by older generations moving to the general roll. If anything, younger Maori appear more willing to be on the Maori roll. However, for those who don't wish to remain on the Maori roll they can opt off when they move addresses (most 18 year olds enrol while still living at home and move addresses eventually). There's also the option to move during the Maori option.

  6. You have put a lot of thought into this Morgan, but the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election tends to show that there is just not enough in your separate Maori seats dream to move Maori voters to vote.



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