By Reuben P. Chapple

The public debate New Zealand needs to have about the future of the Maori Seats can only happen when the mainstream media does its job and explains to New Zealanders why there are separate Maori seats in the first place. Only then can the country decide whether there is a valid argument for their retention. If not, they must be abolished.

When the Maori Representation Act was introduced in 1867, the right to vote rested on a property qualification, and was restricted to property-owning males.

It is now widely held that the Act was introduced because Maori were disenfranchised by their multiple ownership of land. This is incorrect.

Maori in possession of a freehold estate to the value of twenty-five pounds – even if “held in severalty” – were entitled to vote.

The real problem was the disputed ownership of customary Maori land which had not yet become subject to a registrable proprietary title, the proof of the then prevailing electoral requirement.

When the 1867 Act was still at the Bill stage, the view was expressed in Parliament that the Maori Land Court (established in 1865) would have resolved all these questions within five years.

The Maori Seats created by the Act were thus intended as an interim measure for five years only. It was hoped that by this time enough Maori would hold land under freehold title to remove the need for separate representation.

However, in 1872, the temporary provision was extended for a further five years. Before that period expired, the Maori Representation Continuance Act 1876 decreed that separate representation would continue “until expressly repealed by an Act of the General Assembly.”

In effect, the 1867 Act gave Maori the manhood franchise 12 years before European males were accorded the same right. It was not until 1879 that the Qualification of Electors Act introduced European male suffrage as an alternative to the property qualification.

Universal suffrage in 1893 removed the property qualification. It extended voting rights to all New Zealanders, subject only to an age qualification. Any practical reason for separate Maori seats had entirely disappeared.

However, “politics as usual” has kept the Maori seats in place for 120 years past their use-by date. The bottom line: politicians have always liked the fact that a separate Maori constituency could be pork barrelled in return for political support.

When Parliament finally reviewed the Maori seats in 1953 along with a major re-alignment of Maori electoral boundaries, the vested interests of both Labour and National meant the issue was yet again quietly shelved.

In the 1946 General Election, the two parties were tied for general seats. It was only Labour’s hold on the four Maori seats that enabled it to remain the government.  National, for its part, feared that cutting the Maori seats would bring thousands of Labour-voting Maori flooding onto the general roll in its marginal rural electorates.

In the 1980s, the Maori seats were increasingly linked with the independence aspirations of Maori nationalists, and turned into a political hot potato.  Pressure exerted by these groups meant that after the MMP electoral system was introduced in 1993, the number of Maori seats became tied to the number of New Zealanders electing to register on the Maori roll.

Several well-publicised taxpayer-funded enrolment drives meant these seats have increased in number from four to seven. Yet in the last two general elections, just over 50 percent of those registered on the Maori roll even bothered to vote, suggesting non-voters probably only signed up as a throwaway statement of cultural identity after being bailed up in a shopping mall by someone with a clipboard.

If the number of Maori seats depended not upon the number of people on the Maori roll but upon those who actually voted in the last election, there would be just four Maori seats.

Under MMP, the existence of the Maori seats gives rise to parliamentary ‘overhang.’ This occurs when a party wins more electorate seats than their party vote entitles them to.

In the 2008 election, the Maori Party gained 2.24 percent of the party vote, which entitled them to three Members of Parliament, but won five Maori seats. That meant that the Maori Party created an overhang of two additional seats, giving us 122 MPs in the 2008 Parliament, not 120.

This ‘overhang’ means the number of confidence votes needed to form a government increased from 61 to 62. The inflated representation of the Maori Party through ‘overhang’ thus gives it disproportionate leverage in coalition talks, should the highest polling party find itself unable to form a government in its own right or with other coalition partners.

It is hardly surprising that the Maori Party wants to set in concrete and expand an institution which gives it an easy ride into Parliament, and (because of the ‘overhang’ effect under MMP) excessive influence once it gets there.

The spectre of the racial tail wagging the majority dog gets worse the more Maori seats there are. For this reason, the Maori Party’s demand for the Maori seats to be entrenched in law with all 18 year olds of Maori descent placed automatically onto the Maori roll poses a serious threat to our representative democracy.

It is today widely believed that the Maori seats have some kind of quasi-constitutional status and should be retained as long as Maori activists want them. This is arrant nonsense.

The Treaty of Waitangi does not provide for separate Maori political representation. Nor is there any constitutional basis for its existence.

What the Treaty does provide for is that all New Zealanders, irrespective of cultural affiliation, ethnicity, religious belief, or indeed any other distinguishing characteristic, will enjoy equality in citizenship. This means the universal suffrage subject only to an age qualification that has been in place since 1893.

In Preferential Policies: An International Perspective, Black American academic, Thomas Sowell records the downstream effect of government policies promoting group rights. Sold to the public as promoting inter-group harmony, Sowell found that wherever such policies have been tried, they invariably expanded over time in scale and scope; benefited already advantaged members of the preference group (those with the smarts to work the system); and led to increased rather than decreased inter-group polarisation. In many places they have brought about decades-long civil wars killing and maiming thousands of people.

David Round, a law lecturer at the University of Canterbury, is the latest in a long line of commentators to have preached the danger of identity politics:

“Are we to be a nation, or merely a collection of disparate tribes and cultures all fighting for our own self-interest, heedless of the greater good? Every society has different elements and interests, but for the greater good these interest groups should be encouraged to sink their differences as much as possible and join in the same great common enterprise. The unthinking celebration of diversity which has recently begun to darken our national life carries a very dangerous potential to tear our country apart.”

Entrenching separate Maori political representation permanently embeds a self-anointed racial aristocracy into the fabric of our nation. Whether we should retain the Maori seats is therefore not a matter to be decided on our behalf by politicians. The New Zealand public should be given the opportunity to make a call on this matter by way of binding referendum after hearing both sides of the argument.

25 thoughts on “The Maori Seats

  1. It’s time that all part moari took ownership of their destiny. Its not up to the rest of the voting public to hold their hands. We are all one and I’m sick and tired of the separatism that has crept into our THAT’S OUR! all of ours country. It is for all

  2. And of course, we eagerly await said binding refendum!!!. Somewhat tragically for this country,like all preceding referenda,it won’t be binding as things stand at present. This will result in the political phenomenon to which we are all used, which of course is,”same shit, different day”.
    Perhaps if we all wrote to our local MP, or even gave the bugger a damn good kicking…

  3. Ranginui Walker I have heard saying that the only reason that the Maori seats were created in 1867 was that the european settlers felt that they would be outnumbered by Maori and felt it necessary to make separate seats to keep a majority.This is of course untrue as he must know. By 1867 european immigration was growing rapidly, mostly because of the gold rushes and there was little danger of this happening.
    As for the coercion of Maori to register on the Maori roll-I have seen this and it was just blatant.

  4. Totally agree with the article. I look forward to the time when we can turn the conversation around at Parliamentary level and in the minds of the population. Enough of the endless arguments over they did this, they did that. Everyone, Maori included, need to look the future and decide what will make our country great, rather than what will fill their own selfish pockets. Separatism can only ever be destructive, so it is out. Obsession with “culture” is seriously mis-directed and no different from other extremisms, designed to keep people under control and able to be manipulated. Time to move on. Here’s to one, strong, progressive and united New Zealand!

  5. I think that maintaining maori seats is just another example of the worst kind of racism, ie government (ie state) racial discriminaton

  6. Lets head back to 1893 when the voting was opened up to all new zealanders.Maori seats were abolished all we were all the same people,i cant believe how simple it would be,maybe too simple in some politicians eyes.As far as a referendum is concerned how many referendums have we had and how many millions of dollars have been spent of such referendum only to have the results be totally ignored by govt.Voters have been sadly let down by past referendum and the confidence has gone.As far as Maori seats are concerned,i acknowledge Maori are the indigenous race of NZ,but i just wonder what percentage of the population they are.I then ask the question what about other races of our society and what percentages of the population are they?The Asian have 18% of the Auckland population and lets say the pacific island population of NZ.Does this make them eligible for seats as well?If not,why not?Maybe i am the simple one but to me this system does not seem very fair.I thought we lived in a democratic country but it seems not.

  7. Yes John i agree,letters are good but lets clog up their days they are in their electorate office and look at them face to face and tell them direct of our concerns.You are so right about referenda the powers that be take no notice of the results unless the results are the outcome they were after.Our MPs need to be held to account.

  8. Jarrod,
    I largely agree with what you say, but maori are not indigenous to N.Z. In other words they are not Tangata Whenua ~ and they know it.
    The U.N may have “creatively” re-interpreted the meaning of “indigenous” to suit their own undeclared agenda,but this doesn’t alter the truth of the matter.

    1. I doubt that they do know it-anyway it certainly doesn’t matter, its all about perception and the perception is that they are indigenous and the truth gets buried. You have to realise that with immersion schools and even in the mainstream education system, we are producing a whole generation of young adults who have been brainwashed and are incapable of thinking for themsleves. They have been told the ‘truth’ and have no room for any other opinions. This is the most frightening thing of all.Th TOW is centre to their ‘religion’of supermacy.

  9. Thanks for that, a lot more going on in maoridom than people know, good to see people speaking out over the rorts at the top.

  10. Nazism. Pure and simple.

    Just like in the 1930s, people began to become apprehensive about speaking out. Media became nervous. Brown coats intimidated society and officials until such time, the Nazi ideology became accepted and ultimately the downfall of Germany.

    In Nz, we call the brown Coat actions occupations and Hikoi. The same tactic is used, intimidation, threats, social unrest and a means to fly propaganda banners.

    Adolf Hitler explains the methods to be employed in Mein Kampf . As you will see, OMISSION OF THE TRUTH IS CRUCIAL.

    “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”

    NZ media is scared. NZ governments have slowly introduced (selfishly) dribs and drabs of Maori Nazism into NZ law until such time the cumulative effect has become enormous.

    Maori Nazism is alive and well.

    1. I agree but the New Zealand media are not only scared to print the truth they are also too brainwashed and above all lazy. When the 1997 Ngai Tahu settlement was announced the media repeated the government line of the day that they had waited 150 years for the settlement-an absolute lie! They had had settlements in the 1880s, 1920’s and a ‘full and final’ settlement in 1944. The fact that the media just repeated the government lie is no excuse whatever. Radio and television repeated the lie and continue to do so. We lack any media people who will dig down for the truth.

  11. You are spot on regarding the gutless media of this country, who do their damndest to extend the brainwashing. Take a look at page 2 of this morning’s NZ Herald, whereby the woman business owner in Queenstown, quite rightly, took umbrage at being addressed in maori and the nazi from the maori language outfit said not to worry as they would soon “educate” her. Bloody frighteneing….

    1. John, could you please tell me exactly what the article is called? I am trying to find it online but with no success so far.

  12. Sorry, its buried deep in the wheelie bin. Where it belongs??? I did email the lady, one Bonnie, and congratulate her on her stand. Bonnie mailed me back and thanked me for supporting her.
    I mentioned 1law4all in my reply to her. If you’d like to contact Bonnie directly I don’t think she’d mind (sticking my neck out!). Her business is called Bonz, it is in Queenstown and has a website.
    There was also an article in the business section, about some tribe in the Waikato that owns the te awa shopping centre in Hamilton. Looks like we bought ’em a mall…

    1. John-thanks for your comment that included the reference to the mall. In all recent settlements(since the 1990s)-tribes get the right to buy all surplus government land at
      valuation. Tainui got to buy the Te Rapa ex-air force base-so we have subsidised them both ways!In many cases closed schools etc are held for years waiting settlements-our school closed in 1993 and has been empty since then! Often tribes sell the property(always at a good profit) before it is offered to them and complete the deal on the same day, never having to actually front the money. This fact is often not known to the public.

  13. I wasn’t aware of that, Roger.
    If I tried to do that, it would be called insider trading or fraud or somesuch and I’d expect to end up in jail. Of course, here in good old Godzone it’s perfectly legal.
    I note that the UN recently rated NZ as one of the worlds least corrupt countries. I can only say, that no rational person from the UN could have ever set foot in the place!.

  14. Regarding maori seats and local govt. I don’t know whether anyone out there is aware, the far north district council are trying to get the council made into a “unitary authority”.
    The Mayor, Wayne Brown, is going for his life with the local govt. commission to get three unelected maori seats on the council as part of this.
    Needless to say, none of this is being voted on by the general public, however, the council did spend 15k of ratepayers money on a “phone survey” of 400 people, which came to the conclusion that 69% of locals are in favour of said “maori seats”. YEAH, RIGHT…
    Once the local tribe stop bickering among themselves they will get around $170,000,000 in cash, plus lots of land, from the rest of us taxpaying schmucks.
    Such is the price of democracy in the far north.

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