The hypocrisy of attacking Maori seats for being tactical



There has been a response to the alliance between Mana and the Internet Party from a number of quarters that has bordered on being patronising hysteria.

At the heart is the indignation expressed that the alliance party, Internet Mana, could have an electorate and list presence in the House on the basis of a win in a Maori seat. All parties aspire to win electorate seats and to attract enough party vote to bring a number of their party colleagues in on the list. In 2011 every party that is currently represented in Parliament stood candidates in electorate seats. In the very first MMP election in 1996, NZ First had 17 seats in Parliament with just 6 electorate seats – Tauranga and the 5 Maori seats. And we all know about the numbers of ACT MPs that owed their Parliamentary experience to a win in Epsom facilitated by a nod from National.

What we have seen is a romanticised notion of the Maori seats and a less than subtle threat that future retention of the Maori seats is somehow weakened by this alliance. These utterances expose a lack of historical knowledge and are disrespectful of those who choose to be registered on the Maori roll.

The Maori seats came into being as a result of the Maori Representation Act 1867 which was introduced by the MP for Napier, Donald McLean. McLean was the land purchase agent responsible for dealings that gave rise to many Waitangi Tribunal claims in the Whanganui, Rangitikei and Hawkes Bay regions. In 1856 he was appointed Native Secretary and as Maori resistance to land sales grew, McLean became more devious and made secret payments to certain chiefs to effect sales. McLean was single-handedly responsible for the war that broke out over the Waitara purchase. He never took responsibility for his actions and instead blamed it on the King movement. In 1863 McLean was made General Government Agent in Hawke’s Bay where he owned large sheep runs and then took an active role in the East Coast wars in the 1860s. McLean believed that European dominance was inevitable and desirable and advocated for full assimilation of Maori.

The Maori seats were seen by McLean as a temporary measure, needed only for 5 years until Maori had fully adopted the English legal system of land ownership. However Maori did not co-operate with that time-frame and because of resistance the seats were extended and in 1876 they were made permanent. A study of history would show that the Maori seats provided by the government occurred only after Maori had been unable to progress their own political autonomy through the King Movement and Te Kotahitanga. At the time of the introduction of Maori electorates Maori owned significant tracts of land and paid significant taxes and it was agreed that a temporary measure to give Maori representation was a necessary obligation. The seats encouraged individualisation of title paved by Maori Land Acts and a subsequent increase in land sales meant that by 1900 Maori were almost landless. It is also a fact that the Bill establishing Maori seats was introduced on the same day as a Bill creating 2 further South Island miners seats. Maori representation was a trade off to retain the balance of North Island and South Island seats. Both bills taken together created 3 North Island seats and 3 South Island seats – retaining the status quo while allowing for increased representation for South Island miners.

And so to today. It would be wrong to idealise the introduction of Maori electorates as born out of some benevolence toward tangata whenua. Maori believed they had autonomy but were excluded from political participation. A controlled and convenient vehicle was put in place, largely to accommodate land sales and miners representation.

It is generally accepted that the contemporary need for Maori seats is strongly supported by Maori. That is why Labour supports retention of the Maori seats until Maori choose through the Maori electoral option that they are no longer necessary. ACT, National and NZ First have all advocated for the abolition of Maori seats. All three have benefitted from MMP and the ability for others to come into Parliament on the basis of what may be just one electorate seat. That is the electoral system we have and any change on that basis was rejected by the National Government and its Minister of Justice. It is nothing short of insulting for media commentators to now suggest there is some difference in the operation of MMP because some list MPs might come into Parliament on the basis of a win in a Maori seat. Those are the rules – they cannot just apply when it suits those in power. After all that’s how we got the seats in the first place.

TDB Recommends


  1. This is officially the only response from a Labour MP to any part of the Internet-Mana alliance which makes any sense and is in any way progressive and constructive. Standing ovation Louisa, you’ve bucked the trend of the old dinosaurs within Labour and your young male colleague, and one new colleague, for a torrent of deafening imbecelic outbursts. Congratulations.

  2. Well said Louisa!

    Its also worth noting that under First Past the Post the Maori seats could create a small gerrymander in favour of the right, as it meant there were less left-leaning voters in the general electorates. With MMP this small advantage for the right was removed. Is it really a surprise there has been greater whinging from the right about the existence of the Maori seats since New Zealand adopted a fairer electoral system in 1996?

  3. might be a good idea to tell your leader this as he seems hell bent on shooting himself and every other left voting person in the foot for the sake of pretending he holds the high moral ground

  4. It is nothing short of insulting for media commentators to now suggest there is some difference in the operation of MMP because some list MPs might come into Parliament on the basis of a win in a Maori seat.

    Which media commentators have taken this angle?

    I don’t read everything but I haven’t seen any take this angle. Can you point me in the direction of media commentators who have taken this angle?

  5. Good summary Louisa, pity your male colleagues who have been whinging and criticising their main opportunity to get rid of this evil government together with their bootlicking associates can’t keep their comments to themselves.
    We need to see more support from Labour, hope you are not the only one who is seeing sense with this forthcoming election.
    Labour needs the left parties to all co-operate to change this present government. There is not much time left. The working class can’t take another term with National pulling the strings.

  6. Kia kaha Louisa. A few more representatives such as yourself and I’d think of giving Labour a vote.

  7. Good on you Louisa.

    Would the Labour Caucus care to tell that small group of ageing Labour MPS (plus one hanger-on) to stop undermining leader, David Cunliffe with their intemperate and ill advised public mutterings so close to an election?

  8. And I would argue, it must be accepted that also Maori parties, or part Maori parties, that may align with non Maori parties, with a wider reach, have a right to contest any Maori seat, as long as there is some interest in representing Maori and Maori interests.

    It was a bit “rich” by some in the Maori Party, and even in Labour, to accuse the Internet Mana Party of kind of abusing the Maori seats for their own ends. Labour stands in Maori electorates, so do other parties, and they represent wider interests, not just Maori.

    Why is it then unacceptable to have IMP stand in a Maori seat and contest an electorate?

  9. Dear Louisa,

    while you represent Maori, and while many Maori are dependent on social security, some or many also suffering sickness and disability, what is your position on this?


    Also essential material to study is found here:

    I would think that Labour has a position and would raise a voice for the weakest and downtrodden, not just sole parents and poor with children, also the sick and disabled, and stand up for their RIGTHS.

    We hear NOTHING from Labour on this.

    So it is perhaps encouraging what you write about Maori seats here, but I am missing a hell of a lot from you and your caucus MPs on the dishonest, abysmal and draconian treatment of the sick and disabled on benefits in New Zealand. We have our dignity taken off us, and Labour is silent on this.

    Where is YOUR voice on this, also for Maori, who are disproportionally suffering, and who often do not even speak up, just for fear and for false understanding of “dignity”?

    • I am a witness to a case in point where designated doctors are involved. I wrote to the Min of Social Development but she passed on my letter to the CEO. After waiting without a reply, I initiated a complain to the Human Rights Commission. And all of a sudden, the local Link Centre made changes, but they are themselves confused with conflict of interests and ethics. This is a mess and needs investigation, but all political parties turn a blind eye.

      • Thanks for sharing this, Peter. I know that the Ministry is operating as if nothing had changed, and they apply the tough rules to most. Where complaints are pushed to higher levels, they do in individual cases compromise, but the rest of “clients” still get treated the same abysmal way.

        I can confide to you that a recent assessment was handled in the usual manner, the despicable manner, and it remains to be seen what will come out of it. In that case, a complaint was made at the highest possible level years ago, but they reverted to treat the client as if nothing had happened.

        Sick and disabled are re-assessed all the time, and no matter how permanent their conditions are, often WINZ seem to believe that “miracles” happen, and that such clients are suddenly “fit and healthy” and “able to work”.

        The system stinks, it is evil and pushes people to the extreme, it is a wonder we have no reports of suicide, but I suspect that coroners will not blame WINZ, and rather attribute death to other causes.

      • Maori need to wake up to the serious of this issue and treatment of our peoples which has been going on for near a 180 years now which is the deliberate and sustained genocide of our people which we now see apprent by the loss of elders with few Maori reaching pension age. This latest cut to sickeness and invalid beneficiaries is just another tax upon their crown grant account opened soon after birth and credited with the value of gold in birth/berth wieght ounces on open the market that day as published in the London Times. A system introduced throughout the commonwealth in return for subject to the reigning monarchy in return for one land and mineral assets etc. The commonwealth means eactly that so their is no short age assets to support the creation of money to alliviate povery worldwide. What we have is the tyranny of the majority here in NZ which has roughshod over the Maori people since first coming here. The purpose of the grant system which I believe was first introduced by Catherine the Great was to avoid another uprising by the pesants which happened as a result of them being uneducated and slaves of local armed tyrants who often brainwashed them into uprising agains the Monarch because the could not read or understand to introduction of readind and writing. The object of the excercise was and is brilliant, provide a small investment for every citizen born which is then invested in the secure state infrastructure and trading investments for the term or their lives the investment further offset via insurance via Swiss insurers. The Banks World Bank IMF UN etc have squander vast sums on projects of little benefit to mankind, time for serious look into these matters which are affecting us Maori negatively decade upon decade which ARE being driven by a REAL GENOCIDE mandate. Maori today own about 2.5% of total land area of NZ. Time to push back if we are to survive and enjoy the fruits of regeneration technology and other miricles. Lets not allow ourselves to be persecuted by these imposter false prophets.

  10. Thanks Louisa – after a week of incredibly disappointing posts and tweets etc by some of your collaleagues, your intelligent response above came as a much-needed breath of fresh air!

  11. In light of the fate of Mr Banks, the Maori Party must be fearing the after effects that is their reality come September 20. The lesson follows, ‘go to bed with National and wake up criminal!

  12. As usual, the right score 100% for hypocrisy. On one hand they chuckle with quiet delight about how easy it is to stich up alliances with rednecks and criminals to try and keep in power and then go ballistic when the left form any kind of alliance to attempt to get into power. When it comes to the old question of whether we need separate Maori seats or not, the answer is very simple: ask Maori. Hold a referendum and ask Maori voters if they want separate seats or not. That is the only way to get a straight answer.

Comments are closed.