Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell has described New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' announcement on Maori representation in Parliament as "disgraceful" and a "cheap political stunt".

Mr Peters announced this week if New Zealand First were in government Kiwis would be asked in a binding referendum if the Maori seats should be retained or abolished.

"Maori don't need the Maori seats, they don't need any more tokenism," he said.

Maori Party co-leader Mr Flavell said he thought the rhetoric was nothing short of a cheap political stunt.


"The Maori seats are there for a reason - to give a voice to Maori. Seeking to abolish them shows how disconnected he has become from his roots," he said.

"Mr Peters and the New Zealand First party are taking us back in history and back into the colonial times, with the whole notion of ridding Maori of fair participation in the government of this land."

Maori were initially given four seats in Parliament in 1867. There have been seven Maori electorate seats since 2002.

The Waiariki electorate represents an area including Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga and Whakatane.

"I cover the same area as an MP as five other general candidates," Mr Flavell said.

He said it was unacceptable and "disgraceful" that New Zealand First had even raised this issue.

"It panders to the underground redneck groups that unfortunately our country does have.

"Hanging on to the seven seats in parliament guarantees us representation. He should be ashamed of himself for even raising the issue."

Labour's Waiariki candidate Tamati Coffey said Maori seats were about the partnership the nation was built upon.

"They ensure, in a Pakeha-dominated system that cultural awareness, preservation, perspective and tikanga is observed and respected," he said.

"While just 14 per cent of the population, Maori are not just any minority, they are the indigenous people of this land, and that kaitiakitanga needs to be reflected in our national politics."

Mr Coffey said that Maori often featured in the nation's worst statistics.

"Having Maori seats established within parliament, ensures that despite personality fads or sensationalist political dramas of the day, there will always be a Maori voice to deliver a Maori perspective on the needs of the Maori people," he said.

"Taking away the Maori seats would be like taking away all Bay of Plenty-based MPs and expecting people in Wellington and Auckland to decide our political futures."

In December 2015 Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa celebrated the inauguration of a new partnership board - Te Tatau o Te Arawa.

Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said through that partnership, "we have a voice".

"This is a non-threatening way to make sure a part of the community has their voices heard.

"It's always a challenge for partners to align but we're working at it. Both sides of the partnership what's best for the community at heart."