Does New Zealand still need Māori seats?

Do we still need Māori seats in Parliament, or do they need to be abolished?

This topic is back in the news after ACT MP David Seymour said he thinks we don't need them anymore.

But do we really understand why we have them in the first place? The Project takes a look at the Māori seats to explain why we have them - and bust a few myths.

They may sound like some "Kiwi-as" tourist attraction, but "Maori seats" is the term used to describe the seven Māori electorates.

In an election, voters who have signed up to the Māori roll can vote for the candidate in their Māori electorate.

For example, in the last election, a voter in Tauranga on the general roll got a choice of several candidates, including Simon Bridges and Jan Tinetti.

If you chose to go on the Māori roll, your options were either Te Ururoa Flavell or Tamati Coffey. General role voters picked Mr Bridges. Māori roll voters picked Mr Coffey. Both then got seats in Parliament.

A Māori seat candidate can be from any political party, or be an independent. This all began way back in 1867, as a way to give Māori a democratic voice in the political process.

Before these seats, Māori weren't eligible to vote because they didn't meet the strict criteria of being a property owner - despite having lived, built, farmed and hunted on the land for hundreds of years.

They've been controversial since the start - with some people claiming Māori were "unfit" to contribute to the political process. These days the hubbub is over some feeling Māori seats are no longer necessary.

"Māori are more than capable of getting elected to Parliament without special seats," Mr Seymour argues.

"Our position in principle is that they should go over time, but we appreciate this is something Māoridom will have very strong views on," Mr Bridges says.

Some of those strong views were shared with The Project by former Māori Party MP Marama Fox.

"The truth is, anybody who advocates openly for kaupapa Māori policies does not get voted onto a general seat," she says.

"Get rid of the Māori seats when we have equity in this nation."

Regardless of which side of the debate you're on, this system of indigenous representation is unique to New Zealand politics, so it's worth taking a minute to think it through before we throw it all out, because once they're gone, well, you get the gist.