The Dom Post editorial:
The only question now is: how many seats will the Maori Party lose this year? The party has lost the main reason for its being, which was the repeal Labour's foreshore and seabed legislation. It has not really found another central cause to replace it. It is losing its two most distinguished politicians, Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia. And it has suffered the slow suffocation that all small parties suffer when they get into bed with a larger one.
The Maori Party may well lose one or even two electorate seats, but it is worth reflecting that if they lost two, then their party vote last time was high enough that they would have gained a list seat.
As the Maori middle class grows, it will produce more national supporters. At present, National's share of the Maori vote remains small, of course, but it will rise, just as the Black Republican vote in the united States has increased.
National picks up more support from Maori on the general roll than the Maori roll, but only post-election polls pick this up. In terms of the Maori seats, the records are:
- 1996 – 6.1%
- 1999 – 5.7%
- 2002 – 4.2%
- 2005 – 4.3%
- 2008 – 7.4%
- 2011 – 8.6%
So very modest increases. But much better than the US where in fact black Republican vote has been declining (except for 2004).
And already we have seen a notable rise in the number of National Maori MPs in the general seats – a trend which might have been encouraged by the link between National and the Maori Party.
National's 9th Maori MP is sworn in this week – Jo Hayes. The breakdown of Maori MPs by type of seat is interesting.
- Maori Seats – 7 – Labour 3, Maori Party 3, Mana 1
- List Seats – 12 – National 5, Greens 3, Labour 2, NZ First 2
- General Seats – 6 – National 4, Labour 2
It is MMP, however, which has had the most dramatic effect on Maori representation in parliament. The share of MPs of Maori descent in the house is now greater than the proportion of Maori in the wider population. This increase is wholly good, because it means the Maori voice is better heard in the national marae.
The proportion is now 20.7% of Parliament are Maori. This compares to Maori being 14.1% of the overall population and just 11.3% of the adult population. So that is a very significant over-representation.
Some argue that we no longer need the Maori seats as a result, and indeed the Royal Commission which recommended MMP also believed the Maori seats would not be needed.
This may indeed be true, but it may be better to put off abolition until a majority of Maori approve it.
I agree abolition should only happen by consent, but surely it is time to start that conversation, and even have a referendum among Maori on whether they wish to retain the Maori seats, bearing in mind how over-represented Maori MPs now are in Parliament.