More than 2000 Māori voters have already decided they'll be voting in the general electorate in the next elections. Labour fears a hike in numbers of Māori voters shifting to the General Roll could result in the loss of a Māori seat.
Labour’s Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta says “We are very concerned at the number of Māori voters opting out of the Māori roll.”
Labour woes follow statistics collected by the Electoral Commission just a month after the Option opened in early April revealing that of the 250,000 voters on the Māori roll, over 7000 Māori voters had shifted towards the General Roll resulting in a net decrease of 2000 on the Māori roll. A net decrease of 10,000 Māori voters switching to the General Roll are required to lose a seat.
Despite concerns, NZ First leader Winston Peters says Māori are coming to acknowledge Māori representation under MMP.
“There are a lot of Māori that see us as one country, despite our various cultural backgrounds and they've seen a massive increase in my representation under MMP and they acknowledge it," says Peters.
Only 4000 General Roll voters had made the move to the Māori roll. Peters says his caucus is yet to discuss whether NZ First will be submitting an SOP for a referendum on abolishing the seven Māori seats.
"The reality is despite enormous publicity, the Māori people are voting with their feet and it's without doubt that the majority of people entitled to be on the Māori roll in this country are in fact opting for the General roll.”
The stats released came a day before Labour Minister for Te Tai Tonga, Rino Tirikatene's bill to entrench the Māori seats was selected from the member's ballot. But Minister Tirikatene will need support from NZ First to tip the 75% majority vote if the bill is to pass.
"I'll be speaking with all Parties in Parliament," says Tirikatene.
Māori voters have until August 2 to decide which roll they choose to vote on in the next general election.