Maori were the big losers in Saturday's local government elections, Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says.

Just two Maori candidates were voted in across Northland's four councils. And regional councillor Dover Samuels, who Mr Davis said had worked hard to give Maori a voice in council decision-making' lost his seat.

There were two possible solutions to the lack of Maori representation, Mr Davis said.

One was that Maori should "get off their arses and vote" but it was too easy to lay the blame at their feet. Many Maori did not vote because they felt disenfranchised and unrepresented. The other solution was to introduce dedicated Maori seats, he said.


Mr Samuels, a former Maori Affairs Minister, said he remained opposed to dedicated council seats for Maori even though the election had delivered a regional council without tangata whenua representation. He believed councillors should be elected solely according to their track record but many of the people who had called him since Saturday thought differently.

"People are saying it may be time to look at separate Maori constituencies, not just on the regional council but throughout Northland."

He congratulated the successful candidates in his Coastal North constituency, Bill Shepherd and Jocelyn Yeoman, and defended his record, saying he had worked hard and only missed one meeting in three years, which was due to illness.

Mr Samuels believed he had lost support among conservative voters for setting up, and chairing, a new Maori Advisory Committee made up of 30 hapu representatives and three councillors. Now, however, there would be no Maori councillor to sit on the committee.

Though he was far from radical he believed being Maori, running against a Pakeha rangatira and a "very competent" Pakeha woman, was another factor in his loss.

Mr Samuels said he set up the advisory committee because Northland's large Maori population needed to be heard. According to the 2013 Census, 32 per cent of Northlanders identify as Maori. In the Far North that figure is 44 per cent.

Mr Samuels, 77, did not rule out standing again, saying he would decide whether to run in 2019 when he saw the calibre of candidates in his constituency. In the meantime he was considering signing up for Golden Oldies rugby and would spend more time diving and fishing at Matauri Bay.

"I'll see how things unfold. I still have a lot of horsepower left," he said.

Mr Davis paid tribute to Mr Samuels for setting up the advisory committee and getting regional councillors to visit marae for the first time. Those meetings were well attended which proved Maori were willing to engage if the system engaged with them. He was concerned that the committee would fall into abeyance without Mr Samuels.

In a referendum last year Far North voters rejected a proposal to set up dedicated council seats for Maori.