Bill to protect Māori seats drawn from ballot

By Talisa Kupenga

A member's bill drawn from the parliamentary ballot aims to entrench the Māori seats in legislation.

Labour MP Rino Tirikatene says his Electoral (Entrenchment of the Māori Seats) Amendment Bill would address electoral disparity by bringing Māori seats in line with the general seats.

"It was a great feeling.  My bill had been in the ballot for over two years and I'm just pleased I have the opportunity to bring it before the house and hopefully we can advance it through the parliamentary process," says Tirikstene.

Under the Electoral Act, the provisions establishing the general electorates are entrenched, meaning only a 75 percent majority can overturn them.

Tirikatene's Electoral (Entrenchment of the Māori Seats) Amendment Bill would give Māori electoral seats the same protection.

Tirikatene says, "Our Māori electorate seats don't have that protection and so they can be overturned or abolished just by a simple majority of parliament so there's a discrepancy there".

Tirikatene's bill is similar to one put forward by the late Parekura Horomia and comes at a time when local government is calling for the removal of "unfair" poll provisions unique to the establishment of Māori wards.

"We're also seeing these issues arise at local government level and I certainly hope we can take a wider look to ensure we can get appropriate participation and also recognition through the law to ensure that Māori aren't prejudiced".

Tirikatene expects the bill's first reading within the next two months.