Labour leader David Cunliffe says it won't be very hard for Labour to reach its newly adopted target of at least 45 per cent women MPs after next year's election and at least 50 per cent women after the 2017 election.

"I don't think it's going to be too difficult knowing the calibre of the women candidates and nominees that we have around and the fact that our vote share is likely to be significantly higher this time than it was last time," he said today.

"There won't be difficulty at all for us to reach 45 this time and I'm confident we'll reach 50 next time - I will be personally backing it."

The constitutional motion adopting the targets was passed in a closed session debate today at the party's annual conference at Wigram.


It has become the party's main vehicle for achieving gender equality in representation after a controversial remit allowing some regions to have women-only selections for candidates was withdrawn by the New Zealand Council at the request of former leader David Shearer.

Party president Moira Coatsworth told reporters the way the party would try to achieve the targets was through the list ranking process of the moderating committee, after it had made an assessment of which electorate seats it thought it could win.

But the starting point of selection criteria was about skills.

It was 120 years since women got the vote in New Zealand but women made up less than a third of the Parliament.

The moderating committee would operate as it had in the past by having "an equity check" after every five rankings.

Asked if men would miss out because of the target, Ms Coatsworth said "for the last 120 years, women have missed out.

"This is about getting women equity. There are lots of women with merit. It's not about merit or representation. It's about representation that includes merit.


At present, in a Parliament of 120 (121 after the Christchurch East byelection), there are 39 women or 32.5 per cent.

Labour has 13 women out of 33 MPs or 39.39 per cent (41 per cent if its woman candidate wins Christchurch East).

National has 15 out of 59 or 25.42 per cent.

The Greens have 8 out of 14 MPs or 57.14 per cent.

NZ First has 3 out of 7 or 42.85 per cent.

The Maori Party has one woman out of three or 33.3 per cent.

Act, United and Mana have one male MP each.

Ex NZ First Brendan Horan is an independent.