Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does not support allowing all prisoners the right to vote, saying only those serving a sentence less than three years should have that privilege.

But she will need the support of New Zealand First to bring about that change, and NZ First is yet to state its position.

Ardern was commenting on a scathing Waitangi Tribunal report, released today, that said a 2010 ban on prisoners voting had disproportionately hurt Māori and breached the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

A bill was passed in 2010 that banned all prisoners from enrolling to vote, whereas previously prisoners serving sentences less than three years were allowed to enrol.


The bill passed under the previous Government with the support of National and Act.

Speaking at her post-Cabinet press conference, Ardern said Labour supported the situation in place before the 2010 bill was passed.

She said a threshold of a three-year jail sentence meant a prisoner should be able to vote on the Government that would be in power when they were released.

"We accept that prison does strip away a person's freedoms for a period of time. I don't think anyone would deny that is one of the roles as part of paying that price to society.

"The balance is about right at three years."

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the tribunal's report, as well as a Supreme Court decision that said the 2010 law breached the Bill of Rights Act, made a compelling case and the issue would be considered by Cabinet in the coming weeks.

The Greens want all prisoners to be able to vote, irrespective of sentence, which was recommended in the tribunal's report.

A law change would then hinge on NZ First, and leader Winston Peters told the Herald that the party would wait for Cabinet and caucus discussions.


He said he had a personal view, but did not want to divulge it before Cabinet and caucus had a chance to discuss the issue.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said National would oppose any attempt to change the current law.

"National believes that if the crime is serious enough for someone to go to jail and lose their liberty, they should also, while in jail, lose the right to vote."

Ardern said there was no timeline on when Cabinet would consider the issue.

"We do have a full work programme, but we absolutely know we need to respond [to the tribunal's report].

"We can't leave this issue hanging."