Northland leaders say Maori seats in Parliament are crucial in giving Maori a strong voice.

The debate has re-emerged after New Zealand First leader and Northland MP Winston Peters announced if his party is in Government a binding referendum will be held to ask if Maori seats should be abolished, and if Parliament should be reduced to 100 MPs.

However, Kelvin Davis, MP for Te Tai Tokerau - one of seven Maori seats, said Maori seats allowed Maori electorate MPs to be more outspoken than list or general MPs who were Maori.

"If the Maori seats went, we'd have one homogenised New Zealand voice where Maori issues are totally mixed up and lost in the clamour there. While we still have Maori seats we still have Maori there speaking unashamedly about Maori issues," he said.


Four Maori seats were established in 1867 to give Maori a say in Parliament.

In 1986 a Royal Commission on the electoral system recommended Maori seats be abolished should MMP be adopted.

However, Maori fought for the seats and before the first MMP election in 1996 the number of Maori seats were increased to five - all of which were held by New Zealand First.

Two more seats were added in 2002.

NZ FIrst's Whangarei candidated Shane Jones, who contested the Tamaki Makaurau seat for Labour in 2011 and lost, said he would vote to say goodbye to the seats.

"They've had their high water mark.

"They (the Maori Party) have not been good stewards of those seats and I say that as a Parliamentarian.

"I resent the notion on how the strength of my knowledge and heritage is going to be dictated by what roll you're on," he said.

Asked if it would be beneficial to Maori if the seats were abolished, Mr Jones said:

"I think it's beneficial to Maori to get off their arses and vote. The main problem we have is continually really low turn out and what's the point in keeping them, that's why I think it's a good idea to have a referendum."

Mr Davis believed mainstream New Zealand would vote to abolish the seats but Maori would vote to keep them.

"This is the problem when you're a minority in your own country your voice will be totally overridden."

Ngati Hine leader Pita Tipene agreed with Mr Davis.

"The tyranny of the majority will apply its share force of numbers.

"The majority will look to get rid of those seats."

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua said it should be Maori who decide the future of the seats.

"They were established because Maori don't have the opportunity to voice their opinion and the only way to have their voice heard is by having their own representative in Parliament."