New Zealand electorates
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An electorate is a voting district for elections to the New Zealand Parliament. In informal discussion, electorates are often called seats. The most formal description, electoral district, is rarely seen outside of electoral legislation. Before 1996, all Members of Parliament were directly chosen for office by the voters of an electorate. In 2008 and 2011 under the MMP electoral system, 70 of the usually 120 seats in Parliament were filled by electorate members, with the remainder being filled from party lists in order to achieve proportional representation (there were 69 electorates in 2005, and there will be 71 electorates in the 2014 election). The 71 electorates are made up from 64 general and seven Māori electorates.
Originally, electorates were drawn up based on political and social links, with little consideration for differences in population. Each electorate was allocated a different number of MPs (up to three) in order to balance population differences, but this was only partly successful. Eventually, a new system was introduced — each electorate would elect one MP, and boundaries would be drawn based on population. However, a special country quota meant that rural seats were allowed to contain fewer people than urban seats, preserving an inequality (and over-representing farmers). The quota persisted until 1945.
Today, electorate boundaries are determined by the Representation Commission. The Commission consists of:
- Four government officials—the Government Statistician, the Surveyor-General, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Chairperson of the Local Government Commission.
- A representative of the governing party or coalition, and a representative of the opposition block.
- A chairperson (often a judge) nominated by the other members, with the exception of Chairperson of the Local Government Commission.
Boundaries are reviewed after each New Zealand Census, which occurs every five years. The South Island is guaranteed to have 16 general seats, and dividing the number of persons in the South Island's general electoral population by 16 determines the South Island Quota which is then used to calculate the number of Māori electorates and North Island electorates. The number of māori electorates are determined by the Māori Electoral Option where Māori voters can opt to be in either a māori electorate or a general electorate. The percentage of Māori voters opting for the māori roll determines the percentage of the whole Māori population (of persons claiming Māori ancestry at the previous census) which is then divided by the South Island Quota to calculate the number of māori seats. South Island Māori choosing opting for the general roll are included in the population on which the South Island Quota is established. The North Island population (including Māori opting for the general roll) being divided into electorates of approximately the same population as the South Island ones. Electorates may vary by no more than 5% of the average population size. This has caused the number of list seats in Parliament to decline as the population is experiencing "northern drift" (i.e. the population of the North Island, especially around Auckland, is growing faster than that of the South Island) due to both internal migration and immigration.
Because of the increasing North Island population, the North Island was awarded an additional electoral seat beginning in the 2008 general election. Another North Island seat was created for the 2014 general election. Each time, the need for an extra seat was determined from the results of the most recent census, with the seat coming out of the total number of list seats. The total number of list seats has thus declined from 51 to 49 since 2007.
Although the New Zealand Parliament is intended to have 120 members, recent iterations have exceeded this quantity. Due to some parties winning more electorate seats than their proportion of the party vote suggests, overhang seats have awarded. In 2005 and 2011, 121 members were elected; 122 members were elected in 2008.
Over the years, there have been two types of "special" electorates created for particular communities. The first were special goldminers' electorates, created for participants in the Otago Goldrush — goldminers did not usually meet the residency and property requirements in the electorate they were prospecting in, but were numerous enough to warrant political representation. Two goldminers' electorates existed, the first began in 1863 and both ended in 1870.
Much more durable have been the Māori electorates, created in 1868 to give separate representation to Māori citizens. Although originally intended to be temporary, they came to function as reserved positions for Māori, ensuring that there would always be a Māori voice in Parliament. Until 1996 the number of Māori electorates was fixed at four, significantly under-representing Māori in Parliament. In 1975 the definition of who could opt to register on either the general or the māori roll was expanded to include all persons of Māori descent. Previously all persons of more than 50% Māori ancestry were on the māori roll while persons of less than 50% Māori ancestry were required to enrol on the then European roll. Only persons presumed to have equal Māori and European ancestry (so-called half-castes) had a choice of roll. Since the introduction of MMP, the number of seats can change with the number of Māori voters who choose to go on the Māori roll rather than the general roll.
Electorates in the 50th New Zealand Parliament
This table shows the electorates as they were for the 2011 general election. Some boundary changes occurred prior to the 2014 general election, including the abolition of the Waitakere electorate and the creation of Kelston and Upper Harbour.
|Hauraki-Waikato||Mahuta, NanaiaNanaia Mahuta||Labour||Waikato, including Coromandel|
|Ikaroa-Rawhiti||Whaitiri, MekaMeka Whaitiri||Labour||East Cape, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and the Hutt Valley|
|Tamaki Makaurau||Sharples, PitaPita Sharples||Māori||central and southern Auckland|
|Te Tai Hauauru||Turia, TarianaTariana Turia||Māori||South Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui and the Kapiti Coast|
|Te Tai Tokerau||Harawira, HoneHone Harawira||Mana||Northland, north and west Auckland|
|Te Tai Tonga||Tirikatene, RinoRino Tirikatene||Labour||Wellington, the South Island, Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands|
|Waiariki||Flavell, Te UruroaTe Ururoa Flavell||Māori||Bay of Plenty and Taupo|
- "Calculating future Māori and General Electorates". Electoral Commission (New Zealand). 1 October 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
- "Report of the Representation Commission, 2007". elections.org.nz. Representation Commission. 2007. p. 4. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- "2014 Electorate Boundaries - Key Changes". elections.org.nz. Electoral Commission New Zealand. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
- "Electoral Amendment Act 1975". Retrieved 10 March 2014.
- "Electoral Act, 1956". Retrieved 10 March 2014.
- Electorate profiles, produced by the Parliamentary Library, New Zealand Parliament
- Map of electorates with boundaries, produced by the Elections NZ website, run by the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Enrolment Centre, the Representation Commission, and the Justice Sector.