Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Byelection draws first-time voters

Numbers registering for the Maori roll in five-yearly electoral option appear too low to guarantee extra seat.

Candidates in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection reach out to voters in Masterton.
Candidates in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection reach out to voters in Masterton.

The Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection has sparked a flurry of enrolments on to the Maori roll by first-time voters, but there has been a minimal gain in other Maori seats, raising doubts about whether another seat will eventuate.

There is one month to go before the five-yearly Maori Electoral Option ends and the latest results show there has, so far, been a net increase of 5198 voters on the Maori roll.

The boost was largely because of the 4800 first-time voters who opted for the Maori roll, rather than the general roll. However, the 7700 voters who moved from the general roll to the Maori roll were almost cancelled out by the 7300 going the other way, diminishing the chances of another seat. That is in contrast to the previous option in 2006, when about 14,300 moved from the general to the Maori roll, compared with 7300 who moved to the general roll.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti has increased by 1353 voters, compared with an average of 641 in the other six electorates. Much of that was driven by new voters signing up on to the Maori roll - there were 1184 new voters in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, compared with an average of 602 in the other electorates.

The candidates in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti debate and Maori MPs from Labour, Mana, the Maori Party and the Green Party joined forces last week by co-signing an "open letter" to encourage Maori voters to get on the Maori roll and called for the Electoral Commission to boost publicity efforts.

Labour's Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones said the numbers vacating the Maori roll in the Maori Party's three electorates was partly a protest vote at the Maori Party's support of National. "They don't want their vote propping up a National Government." Others were "hoha" at the ill-will between the Maori Party and Mana leader Hone Harawira.

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said he was not sure why so few were taking up the chance to move on to the Maori roll. "Maybe people are just comfortable with where they are at and can't be bothered doing the analysis needed to position their vote in a better place. That's disappointing for the Maori Party."

Murray Wicks, the manager of Enrolment Services, said he could not say how many extra voters were needed on the Maori roll to form an eighth seat because it would depend on the population changes in the Census. He said the commission had contacted Maori groups and had reached more than 120,000 voters.

Maori electoral option

* March 25 to July 25.

* Held five-yearly, it is the only chance for Maori voters to switch between the Maori and general rolls.

Numbers so far

* New voters of Maori descent: 4798 chose Maori roll, 2044 chose the general roll.

* Already enrolled voters: 7327 voters have moved from the Maori roll to the general roll, 7727 moved from the general roll on to the Maori roll.

* Most new voters enrolling: Ikaroa-Rawhiti, 1353-plus.

* Most voters moving from Maori roll to general roll: Te Tai Hauauru, 1297

* Most voters moving from general roll to Maori roll: Te Tai Tonga, 1454.

- NZ Herald

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