Rules for Māori seats reignite questions about Govt-Māori partnership

By Talisa Kupenga

Bridging the gap between Māori and the Crown was part of the Prime Minister's wider Waitangi message. But with the Māori and general seats not under the same protections in parliament questions about a genuine partnership remain.

Māori and Pākeha are equals outside Te Whare Runanga but it seems to be different story in Parliament.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says "our view has always been that is a decision for Māori and as long as they see the value and importance in those seats then they will remain."

The Lābour party holds all seven Māori seats. Labour’s Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikātene has a members bill that aims to entrench the Māori seats. But opinion is split.

Former National Party Leader Don Brash questions why the Māori electorates are even needed.

But Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson says she’s long wanted them entrenched into law.

“It is also a guarantee under Te Tiriti in our opinion that we ensure that there is Māori representation at the seat of power."

General seats are entrenched under law meaning a 75-percent majority is required to overturn them.Māori seats only require a majority vote to be abolished.

The issue has sparked debate as New Zealanders question our identity as a nation.

Rachael Wharerau (Ngapuhi) says the seats should "absolutely” have the same rights as the general seats.

“Our people need to be protected and need equal opportunities"

Sydney Heramaia (Ngāpuhi) says “there needs to be a specific voice for Māori and having Māori ministers within a tauiwi (European) system I don't think that's the same deal and I don't think that's what our tupuna (ancestors) signed up for.

The bill has passed its first reading, and will be debated again in the coming months in parliament.