Jacinda Ardern stands by Māori seats

The Labour Party swept through all seven Māori seats on Saturday night, seeing the Māori Party left out of Parliament altogether.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern reiterated the party's commitment to maintaining the seats while speaking to media on Sunday, ruling out a shift in order to appease NZ First leader Winston Peters.

"We've already shared our view on that,” she said. “That's an issue for Māori voters." 

"As we've said, we think the Māori seats serve an important role in New Zealand."

Ms Ardern believes a decision on the seats would be up to Māori voters.

The party had to clarify its position on the seats after confusion was sown during an interview on The Nation Sunday morning with Labour’s campaign manager Phil Twyford.

Mr Twyford said he would not rule out a referendum on the seats as part of negotiations with Mr Peters.

Labour has since contacted Newshub to say Mr Twyford had not wished to discuss what is on and off the table. The staffer said there is "no intention of putting Māori seats on the negotiating table."

A referendum on the seats is long-held policy for New Zealand First but one Labour has now ruled out several times. 

Much speculation surrounds which policies Mr Peters will choose to negotiate on, but his opposition to what he calls "race-based" law could see a referendum on Māori seats a key goal.

Speaking on Labour's clean sweep of the Māori electorate seats, Ms Ardern said it was "a response to well-run campaigns by our candidates; a message that was really strong and clear around producing better outcomes for Māori."

"I understand that when you lose a seat it's really tough, and there's MPs that have been lost here that I do have great respect for," she said.

Māori Party co-leaders Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell were both tearful in the wake of their loss on Sunday morning.

Seven Māori electorates span New Zealand. They operate similarly to general electorates, except electors must be of Māori descent and on the Maori roll.