Parliament to decide whether to give Māori seats equal protection

The inside of Parliament.
The inside of Parliament. Photo credit: Getty

Parliament will decide whether Māori seats should be given the same protection under law as general seats.

Labour MP Rino Tirikatene's Member's Bill, which would entrench the Māori seats, has been pulled from the ballot.

If the bill was passed, they could not be dismantled without 75 percent backing from MPs or a public referendum, rather than a simple majority in the House.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signalled her support for entrenching the Māori seats prior to the 2017 general election - as did the Greens, so their support is a given.

But the bill will need support from either National or New Zealand First in order to progress to select committee.

Getting support from either of those parties will be a challenge - both have historically opposed Māori seats, and NZ First campaigned on holding a referendum to abolish the seats.

On Thursday, leaders of NZ First and National said they would need to discuss the issue with their caucus before saying where their support fell.

Mr Tirikatene says the bill addresses a constitutional issue.

"[The seats] are a world-leading model of indigenous representation," Mr Tirikatene told Newshub.

"They are unique and a very proud feature of our parliamentary system. I think it's timely we look at the legislation. There's a clear discrepancy there."

When asked whether he though NZ First and National would vote according to the constitutional question, or whether they would see the bill as a wider symbolic vote on Māori seats and vote against them, Mr Tirikatene said they will have to make their own judgements.

"My basis is very clear. It's a clear inequity in our constitutional arrangement. We are only seeking to be treated the same as the general electorate seats."

New Zealanders of Māori descent can register to vote on either the Māori or the general role.

There are currently seven Māori seats, but the number can fluctuate according the number of people on the Māori roll.


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