New Zealand Histories IV

K R Bolton
7000 words.

Maori Universal Franchise Preceded Settlers

Recently there has been some debate on the extension of Maori representation on local body councils, with the creation of Maori wards that would ensure Maori representation on councils. As with the Maori parliamentary seats, based on four Maori electorates, ‘one nation’ neoliberals object that this divides the nation, and they allude to the ‘we are now one people’ phrase uttered by Governor Hobson when the Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. [1]

The neoliberal contention is that the Treaty gave equality of the ‘privileges and rights’ of British subjects under the protection of the British Crown, to ‘all the people of New Zealand’, and that separate political representation, or anything specifically ‘Maori’, gives the Maori special status, akin to ‘apartheid’; that we are ‘all New Zealanders regardless of race’. Hence, not only should there be no special representation on local councils, but the four Maori seats should be abolished, since Maori have long been able to register on the general electoral rolls, and there are many Maori in parliament representing general – not Maori – electorates.

On the other hand, protagonists for separate Maori representation argue that Maori chiefs did not sign away their chiefly authority to the Crown, but share the same authority with the Crown.

We will not here be focusing on the merits of either case, or the manner by which Maori chiefs actually interpreted the Treaty. This will be left to consider in detail, when examining the great Maori congress at Kohimaramara in 1860, where the chiefs were clear as to precisely what they understood by the Treaty.

What concerns us here is whether Maori were politically disadvantaged on the basis of race, for the purpose of maintaining ‘White hegemony’ and ‘White privilege’. It will be contended that the political system was based on class and the maintenance of an oligarchy that sought to preserve privileges of wealth, devoid of any bonds of kinship other than by what conservative social critic Thomas Carlyle in Past & Present (1843) called at the time of New Zealand’s colonial settlement, the ‘money nexus’. Contemporary debates on methods for Maori participation in the electoral process show that Maori votes were eagerly sought by bribery, and that without such bribes Maori had scant interest in the political affairs of the Settler colony. Maori and Settlers regarded their interests as separate and best kept that way, without meddling from political opportunists and careerists.

Special Status of ‘Mandated Iwi’

Interestingly, when the proposals for the creation of Maori wards for local councils came up for vote in Kapiti the three ‘mandated iwi’ advised that they did not wish for the wards to be created for the moment. This indicates that the manner by which local councils consult their ‘mandated Maori’ tribes is so extensive as to make the Maori wards of secondary importance, and even a distraction. The Kapiti Coast District Council explained:

Guided by the recommendation of its iwi partners, Councillors today confirmed their October 2020 resolution not to establish a Māori ward for electoral purposes ahead of the 2022 local body elections.

Mayor K. Gurunathan said Council had a well-established 25-year history of being guided by its iwi partners, Te Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai Charitable Trust, Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, as mana whenua of the Kāpiti Coast District.

Council consulted with each of its iwi partners on the implications of the Local Electoral (Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Act 2021, which provided local authorities with a fresh opportunity to consider whether to establish a Māori ward. The Amendment Act removed the ability for electors and for Council to effect a binding poll in relation to a decision to establish a Māori ward or constituency.

Our iwi partners confirmed that while Māori ward representation on Council is important to them, their current priority is to strengthen their existing partnership with Council. Our partners are keen to carry on discussions about a Māori ward over the next triennium,’ said Mayor Gurunathan. Councillors expressed their support for the views of mana whenua on this important question of Māori representation and reiterated their commitment to working together to continue to strengthen the partnership. [2]

Note the repeated references to ‘partnership’. This reflects the modern interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi as having established Maori as ‘equal partners’ with the Crown, rather than as ‘subjects’ under the protection of the Crown. What is not stated is that more than ‘equal partners’ the ‘mandated iwi’ take ‘precedence’ at Council, and that those iwi and hapu who are not ‘mandated’ are relegated to the proverbial ‘back of the bus’. [3]

There are ‘mandated iwi organisations’, ‘recognised iwi organisations’, ‘iwi authorities and groups’, ‘national and urban Maori organisations’ and marae that are consulted at all levels of local and national government in what are known by government departments as ‘policy partnerships’. [4] Again there is the pervasive notion that the Crown and Maori are in a ‘partnership’ dating from 1840. This representational network flows at the most fundamental level to the marae, as a focal point around which iwi (tribes) and hapu (families) can gather for political social, and cultural purposes. When did the Settlers and their forebears ever have such a network?

No Bond of White Kinship

Maori have maintained multileveled representations for their own people and by their own people. They have never been the subjects of a ‘white supremacist’ edifice or mentality. They have been subjected to a condescending liberal patrimony that saw Britain as having a ‘mission to civilise the world’ with the supposed benefits of Late Western political and economic doctrines, that would make the Maori a brown-skinned ‘Englishman’. As was evident at the 1860 Maori chiefs’ congress at Kohimaramara, a majority of Maori chiefs had eagerly embraced the idea of becoming, as they said, ‘Pakeha’, abandoning the old ways.

For their part, the colonial administrators, possessed with this sense of ‘mission’ saw the Maori as an energetic and intelligent people who would soon make fine ‘Englishmen’. As we have previously seen in this series, the attitude of the Settler press was well disposed towards the Maori, even if in a condensing way. The Herald referred to the Maori as being ‘apt and intelligent enough’ not to require an appointed ‘Protector’. In 1849 the Wellington Independent lamented that not enough had been done to ‘civilise’ the ‘natives’, and launched a bi-lingual newspaper. [5] While condescending by today’s measure this is not ‘White supremacy’, and a racial policy was not implemented, nor did a racial doctrine guide the British Colonial Office. Indeed, they were conscious not only of the multiracial nature of the Empire, but also of the alliances and trade they were attempting to cultivate with Japan and China. The Colonial Office resisted all efforts by the Dominions to restrict immigration by race. Hence, ways were found to try and circumvent the British Colonial Office by imposing language tests and the poll-tax.

British colonial hegemony was far harsher in its attitudes and treatment towards other ‘whites’, such as the Afrikaner and the Irish. British colonialism was not motivated by any sense of ‘race’ or ‘white supremacy’, but by a global Anglicisation analogous to the Hellenising mission of Alexander the Great. One could don the clothes and mannerisms of England regardless of race.

Boerhaat (Boer-hate) is the Afrikaans word for ‘ethnic hatred of Boers’. Queen Victoria considered Boers ‘horrid people, cruel and overbearing’. [6] The press was full of false accusations against the Boers, as political and financial interests sought to take the mineral wealth of the Boer republics by imperial invasion. In 1884 an editorial in the London Times referred to the Transvaal Boers as having ‘all the aggressiveness, the greed, the contempt for public law, and the disregard for all the right save that of the strongest’. [7] Unlike the many Maori chiefs who sought British intervention to end the tribal wars that were decimating the Maori population, [8] no Boer pleaded with Britain to establish pax Britannica.

While the Afrikaner farmers were portrayed as filthy, ignorant and cruel peasants by the British Establishment, Maori were feted, and regarded as altogether superior fellows than even the British settler folk. ‘In May 1863, 14 women of Ngapuhi, Tuhourangi, Tuwharetoa, Ngati Awa and Ngati Whangaunga landed in London with a party of Nelson settlers led by William Jenkins’. [9]The Maori women were considered ‘distinguished New Zealanders’ by the British Establishment, while little regard was taken of the Nelsonians, whose ‘settler’ status seemed to be a mark of inferiority:

‘“The distinguished New Zealanders,” as the press dubbed the Maori (the Europeans with them were referred to as “settlers”) received lavish publicity, became “the lions of London”, and were received and feted by all the nobility and several members of the royal family’.

[These] ‘“distinguished New Zealanders” completed a hectic round of social engagements, including an audience with the Prince and Princess of Wales. At an audience with Queen Victoria, the young Ngapuhi couple Hare and Hariata Pomare were singled out for special royal attention, for Hariata was in what one observer described as “an interesting condition”. “Her Majesty expressed herself pleased at the prospect of the birth of a New Zealand child of distinction in this country and, should the child prove a girl, Her Majesty would be pleased to have it named Victoria or, if a male, Albert, and the Queen signified her wish to stand godmother,” William Jenkins recorded’. [10]

At Queen Victoria’s request Hare and Hariata Pomare took up residence with Elizabeth Colenso, estranged wife of the missionary, born in New Zealand, and fluent in Maori. Here we see the British Establishment mentality in regard to their duty to make colonial natives into dark-complexioned English bourgeoisie, while Irish, Afrikaners and indeed British workmen and their families were regarded as irredeemable filth. The Maori guests learned the arts and manners of the British bourgeoisie:

Here, the Pomares learned the art of Victorian living – sewing, embroidery and etiquette for Hariata; horse-riding, boating, fishing and mastering billiards and chess for Hare. Their expenses were paid by the Queen.

On the birth of a healthy boy, Victoria presented the Ngapuhi couple with £25 and a silver-gilt cutlery set and goblet for the child, engraved: To Albert Victor Pomare, from his godmother, Queen Victoria, November 1863.

Society columns of English newspapers carried full details of the event. The following day, Elizabeth and the Pomares, obeying a royal command, waited on Queen Victoria at Windsor.

Elizabeth recorded a full impression of the day. “We were ushered into a warm, cosy room where refreshments – tea, coffee, cake, bread and butter, and wine – were brought in” [11]

The Pomares sailed back to New Zealand in 1864, on first class passage. In 1869 the Queen started a five year grant ‘to have Albert Victor educated for the class of life to which he belongs’. [12]

Of a racial bond between all classes of the Empire, there was none. Rather, then as now, there is a bond of wealth that subverts racial and cultural kinship – the ‘money nexus’.

Maori Franchise Wider than Settlers’

The New Zealand Constitution Act of 1865 provided the franchise for both European and Maori males who had reached the age of 21, and who had individual title to land. Although it is assumed that because few Maori held individual land titles they were thereby effectively disenfranchised, Maori had their own structures then, as now, by which they were represented and could take their issues directly to the Crown. The four Maori seats were established by the Maori Representation Act of 1867, which exempted Maori from the qualification of individual land title, while those who did hold individual land titles were still able to choose to vote as part of the general electorate.

The Wanganui Chronicle and Hawkes Bay Times expressed concern that the Maori electorate would form a greater proportion of electors and disadvantage the Settler population:

The Maori Franchise. – The Maori electors in the East Coast districts are now so numerous as to be able to completely swamp the European vote. In the district of Tauranga this year there are 850 new claims to vote, of which 736 are natives who now form a two-thirds majority of the whole. And, in addition, they, with the rest of the natives of this Colony, have the special privilege of another vote, which no European colonist possesses, — Hawke’s Bay Times’. [13]

Despite claims that few Maori were able to vote in the elections, contemporary newspaper accounts show that this was clearly not the case.

Bribery of Maori Electors

A primary concern was the outright corruption and bribery exercised for securing the Maori bloc vote. Money and goods were flagrantly displayed outside polling stations by the candidates for the benefit of the Maori electors. In the present era the chase after the Maori vote remains conspicuous. The Settlers who were being disenfranchised by the Maori bloc vote and the consequences of bribery, wanted a separate franchise that would allow Maori to only vote for their own representatives, separated from the European electorate. An 1875 report stated of the situation:

In view of the approaching general elections, the present session of Parliament should not be allowed to pass without making some amendment to the system of Maori voting for the return of European members. At present the settlers in several important electorates are practically disfranchised by the overpowering block vote of natives, whose names have mostly been put on the roll by electioneering agents; and we believe it will be found when the new rolls are issued that the evil has been very largely increased in several important districts. The way Maoris exercise their votes is notorious. It is impossible to conceive of more open bribery and corruption than that practiced at every election where the native vote is sufficiently important to justify large outlay.

At the last contested Superintendency election, tobacco, flour, and other stores were spread out in front of the polling booth at Helensville by the rival electioneering agents, and bids in money were freely made and accepted for votes. At Tauranga the corruption is no less barefaced, and the natives are sufficiently alive to the market value of their privileges to hold out for the highest price, such a system is no less, demoralising to the natives than it is unjust to the settler and injurious to the status and character of the legislature of the colony. [14]

Here we see that there was an early appeal for separate franchises because of the manner by which Maori were being bribed. While ostensible ‘conservatives’ today baulk at the separate Maori electorates as an example of ‘Maori privilege’ and ‘separatism’, then as now, unscrupulous politicians used the Maori vote for their own ends.

The call for separate franchises was also premised not only on the issue of political corruption, but on the clearly separate interests of Maori and Settlers, which could only be represented by those from their own respective peoples. It was recognised that Maori should be represented by Maori, and not by a political careerist buying the Maori vote.

In dealing with it there seems to be only one effectual and equitable remedy: the creation of a Maori franchise to be exercised in the election of native members only; and the abolition of the native right to vote for the return of European representatives. If necessary, the Maori members might be increased by two, although this step will be adopted with extreme reluctance by members of the Assembly who have witnessed the manipulation of votes on every important division. [15]

Settler opinion was that the present system of Maori franchise was not working for anyone’s benefit, and that Maori interest in politics could not yet be reasonably judged.

We do not regard the past experience of Maori representation in the Assembly as a fair tent of what it might become by the creation of wide Maori electoral districts and a popular native franchise, under which the natives would feel that they had something more than the shadow of representation by men of their own race, entering into their sympathies and feelings, and understanding their wants. The present native members are practically the nominees of the Native Minister, and the Maoris, knowing this, take very little interest in their doings. Natives, with all their virgin simplicity, are not apt to mistake the shadow for the substance and they have a much more lively appreciation of the pakeha candidate’s bread and tobacco than of Wi Katene’s speeches. We think agitation in a matter like this should come from the districts which have groaned beneath the burden and are best acquainted with its magnitude and we trust, therefore that steps will be taken at once to address the House by petition on the subject. [16]

Maori Call for Separate Chambers

In 1878 the ‘native tribes’ expressed a desire for separate representation based on the establishment of three chambers: an Upper House; a Representative Chamber, ‘for English only’; and a Representative Chamber, ‘for Maoris only’. This Ngapuhi appeal was made in the name of the rights and justice of European and Maori alike, and with reference to the evil intentions of the internal and external foes of both Europeans and Maori.

We, the Native tribes, know it will not be very long before Her Majesty the Queen will confer on the Native Minister the above given distinction, that is—‘Sir’ as he is in every way worthy of that title above all those who have received that honour.

We also humbly pray of you that the laws which you intend to introduce to the Parliament of that liberal, new political institution in regard to the Native race which you intend to be made for all upon the Native franchise, that you cause such to be printed and circulated amongst us, the Maori tribes, that we, with you, may have an opportunity to give advice on such, that we may see the life, the death, and the good or evil of such laws as are proposed to be passed, but more especially the laws which affect the Maori Representation Act of 1867, that the Act of 1867 be completely done away with and repealed, and that you endeavour to have an Act passed in conformity with the Maori franchise, so that the Maori tribes may to saved from evils to come, so that such Acts may be passed while our old leader, Sir G. Grey, is alive, and that the Parliament may be constituted under three divisions, viz. :

1st. Upper House; let such be as it now is. 2nd. Representative Chamber, for English only; let it be as now constituted. 3rd. Representative Chamber, for Maoris only.

If such were the constitution of the Parliament of New Zealand we then should know that the Europeans and the Maoris were each concerned in devising and passing laws for all. And we, the Maori people, should also know that we were not to bear the heavy part of the burden laid on by the laws; as we are becoming aware that the influx of Europeans into New Zealand and the great increase by births of the Europeans in New Zealand, if such a constitution of the Parliament is not made as above given, there is not any law by which the Maori can hold his place with the Europeans in the land. And if you two, that is, if the Parliament cannot constitute the three divisions in the Parliament as above given, it is in vain that the Maori people vote Maori members into the European House of Parliament. Also it will be useless for Natives to send petitions in days to come to the House of Parliament as now constituted. We therefore beg of you two, and also of all the Maori members, that you do all in your power to move the Parliament to pass an Act to constitute the Parliament as we have suggested above, so that justice may be obtained by the European and Maori alike, and that the Government of the two races may not be given into the hands of a minority of the people, European and Maori, who are even asking you to make laws on conservative, exclusive, and injurious ideas for the people. … [17]

This Apartheid (in a positive sense, literally meaning separate development) was requested by Maori to prevent what they saw as an approaching dispossession with the increase in the European population. They wanted their own parliament, and the retention of the Upper House to oversee both European and Maori parliaments. They did not trust either future European or Maori MPs elected under the present system.

1878 Electoral Bill

This appeal from Ngapuhi came when Parliament was to debate the Government’s Electoral Bill. The Hawke’s Bay Herald saw it as close to disenfranchising the European, and allowing unscrupulous candidates to bribe the Maori to vote in exchange for bribes, despite there being no genuine interest among the Maori in European political matters. [18] As noted above, electoral bribery had already been a flagrant practice. The Otago Daily Times reported;

Napier, Sept. 23. The Maori franchise as now provided for by the Electoral Bill is much disliked in this district, as it is felt that it virtually disfranchises the European electors, and places the election in the hands of Maori manipulators. TheHerald, while pointing out that the passing of the clause proves the strength of the Ministry, strongly condemns the iniquitous injustice of imposing the Maori vote upon a constituency, while the Natives have also their own representatives. It asserts that the Natives take no interest whatever in political questions affecting Europeans; that they are thoroughly ignorant of such questions, and cannot possibly be made to understand them. Their vote they will use at the bidding of some European, and they will go up to vote in a block ‘straight’ as he directs. [19]

John Ormond, former Minister of Public Works, in the House debate stated that the Bill had imposed a great injustice on the European. He stated that aside from the four seats, Maori had great influence in many electoral districts. Ormond believed that the just way was for this Maori representation to increase by increasing the Maori electorates, but not at the expense of the European franchise. He objected to the enfranchising of multiple landowners as ‘a cruel wrong to the European race’. ‘In the Bay of Islands Maoris had flooded the roll, because a number of fictitious voters had been placed upon it at the instigation of a Pakeha-Maori’. 20]

Major Atkinson, in similar vein to Ormond, stated that he favoured increasing Maori representation proportionate to their numbers, but not within the European electorates. He likewise pointed out that in most North Island electorates the Maori votes could swamp that of the European, ‘putting an enormous power into the hands of Pakeha-Maori of bad character’. [21] Mr Wason also pointed out that ‘the Bay of Islands question had shown what an unscrupulous Government could do in the direction of depriving a European constituency of the franchise’. [22]


At Committee the Attorney General successfully proposed an amendment that enlarged the Maori franchise to Maori owning land or tenements to the value of at least £25. The Evening Star expressed a cogent outrage at the betrayal of the European:

The Electoral Bill has been read a third time in the House of Representatives, and is now before the Legislative Council. The alterations effected in Committee are of no particular importance as regards the general principles of the measure but, in respect of the Maori franchise the Government have successfully insisted upon extending it far beyond the provisions of the original draft submitted, and, should the Bill in the present form become law, without doubt, as Major Atkinson took occasion to state, nearly all the country electorates in the North Island will be at the mercy of the Pakeha-Maoris, who, to this mischievous purpose, manipulate Native action in the interests of themselves and their patrons.

Section 18 provided that every Maori should be qualified to vote at the ordinary elections if his name was on the ratepayers’ roll, but not otherwise. At the last moment, however, when the main clauses of the Bill had been passed through committee, the Attorney General proposed an amendment, in the way of addition, to the effect that every Maori should have the franchise, if he ‘is seized at law or equity of lands or tenements for his own life or for the life of any person’ of an estate of the clear value of £25. This was very keenly opposed, but carried on a division by 40 to 36. [23]

The last minute clause sneaked through by the Attorney General enfranchised Maori without regard to individual title, by accepting the collective iwi and hapu titles to land.

The result is that not only will the Natives holding under Crown grant or other definite title possess the franchise for the electoral district in which such property is situated, but that the large number holding under what Mr Ormond termed ‘ communistic titles’ will all be entitled to vote, and will consequently absolutely swamp some twenty constituencies. It is hardly necessary to point out the gross injustice to the European community of the arrangement thus sanctioned by the vote of the Committee. Every principle of representation is violated. The large tracts of land held under the communistic title by the hapus are subject to no rates of any kind, are to be exempt from taxation under the Land Tax Bill, and are yet to confer the franchise upon thousands of individuals who already enjoy special representation by members of their own race, the qualification being universal and personal.

The wrong thus proposed and determined by Ministers, for they made a Ministerial question of Mr Stout’s amendment, is so gross and grievous, so absolutely indefensible, that we are surprised that even the audacity of the present Cabinet was equal to forcing a record of approval by their ‘brute majority’ in the House. If this policy of endowing with a double vote the hordes of Natives who are at the beck and call of Native Office parasites, unscrupulous Pakeha-Maoris, and Ministerial jackals generally, does not open the eyes of the people to the unmitigated humbug of Sir George Grey’s liberalism, we are very much mistaken. Already the votes of the North Island, supplemented by ‘enemies of our own household,’ have stripped Otago and Canterbury of their local revenues, and left the settlers face to face with the difficulties of constructing and maintaining roads and bridges out of their own resources—difficulties which the present terrible disasters from the floods will bring home most severely to every ratepayer. [24]

A primary concern was the opportunity for unscrupulous Europeans and Pakeha-Maori to profit from the political clout that would be vested in the areas they ‘infested’, and over which they influenced the Maori.

What is to be expected, however, from a future House elected upon the basis attempted to be established by the Attorney-General? There will be a compact body of at least twenty members, holding seats by the will and at the pleasure of the Ministry, representing constituencies the large majority of the electors in which contribute not a penny to the rates or to direct taxation. These men, the chosen practically of the low European riffraff that infest the Native settlements, in harmonious accord with the advanced liberals of the South, who have already proved their readiness to sacrifice our most important interests to the exigencies of party, will sway the destinies of the Colony, levy taxes, and control the finances. The Colonists may, indeed, look out for what the Americans would call ‘a fine old time!’

There should be no misunderstanding about the matter. The Electoral Bill, as amended and sent up to the Legislative Council, absolutely gives neither more nor less than manhood suffrage to the Native race in the ordinary elections for representatives of electoral districts, while at the same time the Natives return special representatives to the House, and are fully represented in the Legislative Council. This most outrageous breach of all principle and equity is to be perpetrated, we do not hesitate to say, with the one single object of maintaining the present Ministry in office. They have a keen conception that their great illumination has gone out with a distinct odour in the nostrils of every man of sense; that the ground around them is strewed with broken promises, collapsed windbags, and every description of exploded bunkum; that they hold their places by sufferance on the one side, fear and self-interest on the other; whilst not even their subsidised organs can do more than endeavour to palliate and excuse what is incapable of reasonable defence’. … [25]

Maori Petition for Separate Representation

Interestingly, the Maori representatives opposed the move to integrate the Maori and European franchises. Maori did not want to be part of a nebulous electorate, but retain their own separation, as the Ngapuhi petition indicates. Wiremu Tako Ngātata, the Atiawa chief, a member of the Legislative Council, spoke in favour of separate franchises, and against the entanglement of Maori and European issues

The Hon. Mr. NGATATA said he only rose to speak about the Maori franchise. The Maoris did not want to vote for European members. Let them vote only for their own. Maoris, under this clause, would vote for elections of which they knew nothing. He objected to the clause, as likely to cause a feeling of irritation between the two races. When the Bill went into committee he would move for the erasure of this clause. [26]

What has changed in the present-day? New Zealand is ‘at the mercy of the Pakeha-Maoris, who, to this mischievous purpose, manipulate Native action in the interests of themselves and their patrons’. So far from there having been an entrenched ‘racism’ and feeling of ‘white privilege’, since colonial times New Zealand history has been ‘gross injustice to the European community’, betrayal of the Settlers and their descendants by land-sharks, ministerial jackals, ‘low European riffraff in harmonious accord with the advanced liberals’… We are at the culmination of a process that has been unfolding since the first missionaries came here craving Maori land and souls, defaming the Settlers as ‘devils’, and still doing so in regard to their descendants.

Electoral Agents Organise Maori Bloc Votes

The New Zealand Mail suspected the motives of those demanding the extension of the Maori franchise. The account also alludes to fraud among Maori electors, and to the plea of the Maori spokesmen that they do not want to be entangled in Pakeha politics.

THE MAORI FRANCHISE. The interest in the electoral privileges of the Maori people which Sir George Grey has so suddenly developed begins to alarm the more thoughtful and experienced of the chiefs, and to revive the old suspicion of some sinister purpose. The ‘Kiore (the rat) is burrowing’ as they can see, but they do not know whereabouts he wants to come up.

The excessive kindness on the part of Sir George Grey and Mr. Sheehan in the matter of the native franchise is not, to use their own expression, ‘clear;’ it is for the use of the Government they think, and not for the benefit of the Maori, that the power of controlling elections for the House of Representatives in the North Island is sought to be obtained. They can see that if the Maori votes were used, as they might be, to swamp those of the European electors, ill-feeling would be engendered, which might have very unhappy consequences for themselves, as a people as well as for the public interest.

It may be asserted with truth that what the Maoris desire is such an addition to the number of Maori members in the House as will give them a just proportional representation in Parliament on the scale of population; and as they would resent any interference by European voters in the election of members for the Maori districts, so they are fair and reasonable and politic enough not to desire to interfere with the election of the European members. All the petitions presented to the Parliament give expression to this sentiment. They wish for, and they have a right to, additional members, but they do not want the double vote which it is the desire of Sir George Grey and Mr. Sheehan to endow them with. [27]

Again, there is comment on blatant manipulation of the Maori vote by political interests that had taken place in the Bay of Islands and the Waikato:

We have seen how in the Bay of Islands district the Maori vote maybe manipulated by such ‘friends’ of the ruling powers as may be made always at election times, and we may take warning from that celebrated example as to the length to which an unscrupulous Government will go to attain its ends. No one would reasonably object to any Government using its legitimate influence legitimately to secure the return of its supporters ; but no one will pretend that to dismiss a public officer at a moment’s notice, as was done in the case of Mr. Williams, in order to secure the falsification of an electoral roll, and give the privilege of the franchise to unqualified claimants whose very names were forged to the applications for registration, was not a legitimate exercise of Government influence.

The apparent condonation of that most reprehensible proceeding into which the House has been surprised by adopting the principle of the tribal title to land as a qualification for the franchise, will take away none of the opprobrium which is attached to the Government for that very disgraceful procedure. There has always been a natural jealousy of the unreasonable exercise of the power of the Government in determining elections, and it has long been a rule of the Civil Service that no employee of the Government should take any active part in electioneering contests, or do more than record his vote in the polling booth. We have seen how this rule has been observed by Sir George Grey’s Government in the recent elections, and notably in that for Waipa. There a native officer of the Native Department holding an appointment of great trust on our frontier, who of all others should have kept himself clear of electioneering operations, marched to the poll at the head of a native contingent of voters, and by so doing gave offence to the Maori King on one side, and to the majority of the European settlers in Waikato on the other ; this proceeding violated an established rule of the Civil Service, and was impolitic in itself, as tending to create ill feeling between the races, in a frontier district, where general good-will should be assiduously cultivated. [28]

The newspaper account below cites a letter that had been written to Heta te Hara (Haara) to secure the Maori vote for a Government candidate. The action is indicative of the real influence of the Maori franchise, in determining an electoral result at a time when they were supposedly disempowered.

That the Government will not hesitate to exercise all the influence that it can bring to bear upon the coming elections there can be no doubt; as a specimen of the way in which that may be done we give a copy of a printed circular, which ought be preserved along with that gushing appeal to ‘my dear friend Heta te Hara,’ which we have already so often quoted:

Auckland, July 15,1878. Sir, —Sir George Grey’s Government are very anxious to see Mr. McMinn, one of the candidates for the representation of Waipa, returned for that district, and many friends of the present Cabinet are equally desirous to see this desirable result accomplished. A committee has been formed in Auckland to assist our Waikato friends, and it is proposed to engage a special train to convey the electors resident in and about this city to the polling-place at Mercer, on Wednesday, the 24th instant, the day of election. The train will leave the Auckland station at eleven o’clock on that morning, returning the same afternoon. The local body appointed to assist Mr. McMinn’s election would feel much indebted to you if, even at inconvenience, as an elector, you could make arrangements for recording your vote for the Government candidate, and would therefore request the favour of a reply as to your intentions about proceeding there, addressed to the secretary of the committee, Mr. John King, No. 37 Insurance Offices, Auckland, as quickly as convenient. The train will reach Mercer in less than two hours from starting, remaining (say) one hour, and returning in another hour and three-quarters. The cost of conveying the electors will be borne by Mr. McMinn’s local committee.

Yours, &c, John King, Secretary to Mr. McMinn’s Committee. [29]

The NZ Mail commented on this plan to transport Maori voters to the polls to vote as instructed via Heta te Hara:

It will not be difficult to imagine what an operator so skilful as Mr. Sheehan might effect with ten thousand Maori votes on the European rolls of this North Island; we therefore hope that before the Electoral Bill of the Government becomes law, provision will be made for giving the Maoris additional members in the House of Representatives, with a separate roll of electors, and that the power of the double vote will be taken wholly out of the hands of Ministers. [30]

1878 Bill Dropped

The Electoral Bill was ultimately stalled and dropped. However, as the above shows, the debate exposes the manner by which the Maori vote, such as already existed, was manipulated by political careerists. The extent of the Maori franchise from an early time had a significant impact.

The Maori Representation Act 1867 gave Māori men universal suffrage 12 years before the average Settler. As we have seen the Settler was of little account to the ruling classes whether in New Zealand or Britain. He was lumpen proletariat ridded from Britain to work the fields and future factories of a colony. The 1867 Act had created the four Maori seats to ensure representation, at a time when the franchise was based on individual land title.

The Native Lands Acts of 1862 and 1865 enabled Maori to hold individual land titles. The disaster this created by subverting both Maori customary ownership and the Crown prerogative to purchase land as per the Treaty of Waitangi, has distorted national development perhaps irremediably.

Universal suffrage for non-Maori men was not introduced until the 1879 general elections. The 1867 Act enabled the bypass of the property qualification for Maori, while that restriction remained for the Settlers. The four seats guaranteed to those of at least half Maori descent were to remain until Maori ownership was individualised, after which the ‘one people’ notion was assumed to become operative and Maori would become part of the general franchise. The grievance of certain ‘one nation’ advocates is that the four seats remain despite the freedom of Maori to register on the general electoral roll. Yet the Settlers were in accord with certain Maori such as the Ngaphui in rejecting efforts by the political Establishment to create one nebulous franchise.

Additionally, the Legislative Council (1853-1951) an appointed body, had Maori representation since 1872.

Maori Council – Representation at every level

Since 1962 the Maori Council has existed as a representative body of more consequence than Parliamentary representation. Like other Maori bodies referred to previously, it is able to represent Maori at multiple levels, in ways that do not exist for Euro-New Zealanders, and never have. [31] Among the many areas of involvement is the cultivation of ‘pride of race’; a matter that places the Maori far above any position of the Euro-New Zealander:

to assume and maintain self-reliance, thrift, pride of race, and such conduct as will be conducive to their general health and economic well-being [32]

The extent to which the NZMC functions exclusively for the Maori race can be discerned, its ‘general functions’ including:

(d) to collaborate with and assist State departments and other organisations and agencies in—

(i) the placement of Maoris in industry and other forms of employment;
(ii) the education, vocational guidance, and training of Maoris;
(iii) the provision of housing and the improvement of the living conditions of Maoris;
(iv) the promotion of health and sanitation amongst the Maori people;
(v) the fostering of respect for the law and law-observance amongst the Maori people;
(vi) the prevention of excessive drinking and other undesirable forms of conduct amongst the Maori people; and
(vii) the assistance of Maoris in the solution of difficulties or personal problems. [33]

The extent of the franchise reaches to every Maori having attained the age of 20 in being able to vote for Maori Council representatives at their most immediate, local level: ‘All Maoris of or over the age of 20 years ordinarily resident in a Maori Committee area shall be entitled to vote at elections for members of the Maori Committee for that area’. [34]Marae affiliation is sufficient regardless of a voter’s residence. [35] Hence the urbanised Maori away from his traditional land retains his franchise and his local affiliation. Such a body serves as an example for what might and should be extended to every potentially self-sustainable ethnos within New Zealand, as an option that is preferable to both the nebulous ‘one people’ melting-pot of the neoliberals, and the ever-increasing demands that deny Euro-New Zealanders the opportunity ‘to assume and maintain self-reliance, thrift, pride of race, and such conduct as will be conducive to their general health and economic well-being’.


  • [1] See in particular the lobby ‘Hobson’s Pledge’, which has some notable support, for example from ex-Prime Minister and Reserve Bank governor Don Brash:
  • [2] Kapiti Coast District Council confirms earlier decision on Maori ward,
  • [3] Anecdotally, this situation was made clear at a Kapiti council meeting on 25 February 2021, at which this writer was present. A speaker, Mr Chris Webber, from a hapu that is not part of the ‘mandated iwi’ was repeatedly reminded of his inferior status by the aforementioned Mayor. Members of the public were also told by staff that the ‘mandated iwi’ take ‘precedence’ (sic) at council.
  • [4] Chris Matenga, OIA request to Ministry of Maori Development, and reply from Geoff Short, 6 April 2021,
  • [5] See: NZ Histories II: Europhobia Implicit in School History Curriculum: Colonial Press Did Not Denigrate the Maori.
  • [6] R. Ellis, Who’s Who in British History: Victorian Britain, 18511901 (Ed. Geoffrey Treasure. London: Shepheard Walwyn Publishers, 1997), p. 7.
  • [7] The History of the Times: The TwentiethCentury Test, 18841912, (New York: Macmillan, 19351937), Vol. 3, pp. 158-159.
  • [8] John Robinson, Unrestrained Slaughter: The Maori Musket Wars 1800-1840 (Wellington: Tross Publishing, 2020).
  • [9] Queen Victoria’s Maori Grandson, Women’s Weekly, 21 September 2017.
  • [10] Ibid.
  • [11] Ibid.
  • [12] Ibid.
  • [13] Local and General News, Wanganui Chronicle, 22 May 1874.
  • [14] Evening Star, Auckland, 20 July 1875. Emphasis added. .
  • [15] Ibid. Emphasis added.
  • [16] Ibid. Emphasis added.
  • [17] Wananga, 3 August 1878, p. 390).
  • [18] Editorial, Hawke’s Bay Herald, 23 September 1878.
  • [19]Telegrams, Otago Daily Times, 25 September 1878.
  • [20] Evening Sitting, Christchurch Star, 27 September 1878.
  • [21] House of Representatives, Christchurch Star, 27 September 1878.
  • [22] Parliamentary Items, Christchurch Press, 27 September 1878.
  • [23] The Electoral Bill, Evening Star, 3 October 1878. Emphasis added.
  • [24] Ibid. Emphasis added.
  • [25] Ibid. Emphasis added.
  • [26] Legislative Council, New Zealand Times, 4 October 1879. Emphasis added.
  • [27] New Zealand Times, 30 September 1878. Emphasis added.
  • [28] Ibid. Emphasis added.
  • [29] The Politician, NZ Mail, 5 October 1878. Emphasis added.
  • [30] Ibid.
  • [31] Maori Community Development Act 1962 (17) (18).
  • [32] Ibid., 18 : 1 : b (ii).
  • [33] Ibid., (18 (d).
  • [34] Ibid. Election of Maori Committees, 19: 3.
  • [35] Ibid., 19: 4.

One thought on “New Zealand Histories IV

  1. To Mr Kerry Bolton.
    I found your writing New Zealand Histories IV very enlightening especially the how you explained the Judeo-Norman elites attitude towards ethnic English settlers as a “money nexus” I agree whole-heartedly with most of your writing in this respect with exception towards one particular thing being the Boers. The Boers were by no means Saints and it pays to remember that boerhatt was a problem of their own making it was Boers from the orange free state who took it upon themselves to form militas, cross the orange river and engage in the brutal targeted massacre of Ethnic English civilians (as well as integrated urban Boers) the response to this was (obvious and forseeable) brutality in kind in the form of Kitchener’s concentration camps. I believe that if they had made an effort to take a reconcilatory approach to English settlers rather that treating them as a hated enemy the colonial administration in the Cape colony would have been forced to bend to the will of the settlers (both English and Dutch) which could have lead to popular white rule early on and a sense of shared destiny in Africa. Any ways that’s my peice sorry for my spelling it’s not my strong suit (neither is grammar). P.S I hold no annimossity against Dutch Afrikaners and this critiqe is not intended to offend you the writer or disparage your views simply one thing I disagree with within a very well written and intellectual peice of writing. May Thunor protect you.
    Kind regards -Liam Moreland


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