The origins of the Māori seats
The seven Māori seats are a distinctive feature of the New Zealand Parliament. They date back to the Maori Representation Act 1867, which created four Māori seats.
Prior to the passing of this Act property ownership was a prerequisite for being able to vote. However, because Māori land was owned communally rather than under individual title, Māori did not qualify to vote.
The Act gave all male Māori aged 21 years and over the right to vote. A non-Māori man could vote only if he owned, leased, or rented property of a certain value. A residential qualification to vote was introduced in 1879, and women gained the vote in 1893.
Since the passage of the Electoral Act 1993, the number of Māori seats has been determined on the same basis as the general seats—that is, by the level of the electoral population. Today there are seven Māori seats.
Only voters who have registered on the Māori roll are eligible to vote in the Māori seats. To be on the Māori roll, a voter must be of Māori descent. Since 1975, voters of Māori descent have been able to choose whether to go on the general roll or the Māori roll.
The research paper “The Origins of the Māori seats” provides a detailed history of Māori representation as well as a complete list of Māori MPs up to the 2008 election. A link to the paper is available via the Related documents panel on this page.