Maori Franchise

Awarding the Vote to Māori

Te Paetahi Metekingi from Whanganui, one of the first Māori MPs, elected in 1867.  Source: Teāori people in New Zealand were first awarded the vote in 1867, which was 27 years after the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed.

In 1867, the Māori Representation Act was passed, granting four ‘special’ Māori seats in Parliament. The vote was awarded to all male Māori over the age of 21 years. On a comparable population basis with Pākehā, Māori should have been granted as many as fifteen seats.

Prior to this, you had to own land as an individual in order to qualify for the vote which was only available to men over 21 yrs. The earlier 1852 Constitution Act had given the vote to all males over 21 years who owned land ‘as an individual’.

This ‘individual’ criteria is important because it effectively excluded Māori, who owned their land as communities, not as individuals (as Pākehā people did). The vote was confined in this way because, in 1852, Māori made up the majority of the New Zealand population and they were still relatively strong, economically and militarily.

Early settlers did not want Māori to ‘swamp the electoral rolls’ or, worse, take over Parliament itself.

By 1867 however, things had markedly changed. Pākehā were now the dominant population and they had defeated Māori on the battlefield.