November 2017 Māori Law Review

2017 General Election and government formation

The Electoral Commission released the final results of the 23 September general election on 7 October 2017.

Overview and result

52nd Parliament - seats in the House of Representatives

The National Party secured 44.4% of party votes cast, giving it 56 seats in a 120 member House of Representatives. The New Zealand Labour Party won 46 seats, the New Zealand First Party 9 seats and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8 seats.  ACT New Zealand won one electorate seat.  The Māori Party failed to return to Parliament as it did not win any electorate seats and its share of the party vote was below the 5% threshold (it won 1.2% of the party vote).

There are 29 Members of Parliament of Māori descent (24.17%).*

The seven Māori electorates returned the following members of Parliament:

ElectorateSuccessful candidateParty
Te Tai TokerauKelvin DavisLabour Party
Tāmaki MakaurauPeeni HenaraLabour Party
Hauraki-WaikatoNanaia MahutaLabour Party
WaiarikiTamati CoffeyLabour Party
Ikaroa-RāwhitiMeka WhaitiriLabour Party
Te Tai HauāuruAdrian RuawheLabour Party
Te Tai TongaRino TirikateneLabour Party

Voter turnout

Total voter turnout was 79.8% (as a percentage of those enrolled). This is the highest turnout since 2005, when it was 80.9%. This was also 1.9% above the 2014 turnout and 5.6% above the 2011 voter turnout.

Voting levels in the Māori electorates (as a percentage of those enrolled) ranged from 58.18% to 67.26%.

Voting levels across all electorates by age and by Māori or non-Māori descent (based on self-identification by voters and expressed as a percentage of those enrolled to vote) was as follows:

Age rangeMāori VotersNon-Māori voters
 18-24 61.84 71.38
 25-29 61.64 69.10
 30-34 64.23 72.28
 35-39 68.85 75.38
 40-44 72.06 78.89
 45-49 74.08 81.05
 50-54 75.79 82.91
 55-59 78.84 84.91
 60-64 81.33 86.87
 65-69 84.46 88.62
 70+ 82.03 86.65

Government formation

After a relatively lengthy period of negotiations to see which combination of political parties would command a majority in the House, a minority coalition government was announced on 19 October between Labour and New Zealand First with support on confidence and supply issues from the Greens.

Eighteen ministerial portfolios were subsequently allocated to Māori Ministers along with a number of associate roles.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, State Owned Enterprises and Racing.

Nanaia Mahuta, MP for Hauraki-Waikato, was appointed as the first female Minister for Māori Development. She was also appointed as Minister of Local Government and Associate Environment Minister.

Kelvin Davis was appointed to the newly created role of Minister of Crown/Māori Relations as well as Minister of Tourism, Minister of Corrections and Associate Minister of Education.

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones is the Minister for Forestry, Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development and Associate Minister of Finance and Transport.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark is the Minister for Defence and Veterans.

Labour MPs Peeni Henare, Meka Whaitiri and Willie Jackson were appointed as Ministers outside Cabinet in the new government.  Tāmaki Makaurau MP, Peeni Henare, is Minister responsible for Whānau Ora, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Minister for Youth and Associate Minister for Social Development. Meka Whaitiri is Minister of Customs and has Associate Ministerial responsibilities in the areas of Agriculture, Crown/Māori Relations and Local Government. Finally, Willie Jackson has been appointed as Minister of Employment and Associate Minister for Māori Development.

Coalition Agreement and implications for Māori

The Coalition Agreement between the Labour Party and New Zealand First signals a joint commitment to tackling shared issues. The parties will seek to provide a "transformational government" whilst "maintaining [their] independent political identities". For matters and issues not laid out in the Coalition Agreement, the Parties "will 'agree to disagree' where negotiated between party leaders, and in such circumstances the Parties will be free to express alternative views publicly, and in Parliament."

Concerning Māori, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill was a key issue in the Coalition negotiations. New Zealand First, in particular, made clear its intention that iwi and commercial fishing rights will be taken into account in considering the future of the Bill. One of the policy priorities included in the Coalition Agreement is to "work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First."

Commitments to addressing health inequities were also included, with stated intentions of free doctor consultations for children under 14 and re-establishment of the Mental Health Commission. Lifting the age for free doctor visits from 12 to 14 builds on the Maori Party's legacy, which extended the 'zero fees' scheme to include children aged 6-12 in the previous government. Re-establishing the Mental Health Commission is also likely to have significant implications for Māori. Additionally, an inquiry into mental health will take place.

Another policy priority of the Coalition Agreement is a commitment to tackling wealth inequities, through an incremental increase of the minimum wage to $20 per hour by 2020.

The new Government has committed to restart Te Kotahitanga, a professional development initiative for teachers. Launched in 2001, Te Kotahitanga was a research and development project seeking to raise the achievement of Māori students in years 9-10. The project trained teachers to be culturally responsive to Māori students.

The Agreement includes a commitment to build a museum at Waitangi to commemorate the Māori Battalion.

As noted below, the Agreement is silent on the Treaty of Waitangi.

Confidence and Supply Agreement and implications for Māori

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Labour and Green parties is one of "good faith and no surprises". The Green Party will support the Labour-led government's Budget plan, but will "determine its own position in relation to any policy or legislative matter" that is not covered by collective responsibility, as stated in the Agreement.

An area to watch will be whether the Green party commitment to "safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems" leads to it taking a different stance on the proposed Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary from the minority Government parties.

The Confidence and Supply Agreement promises to "Honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the country’s founding document". The Treaty is not mentioned in the coalition agreement between the Labour Party and New Zealand First. A politically contrasting statement from the 2011 (but not the 2014) relationship accord between the National Party and the Māori Party was as follows: “The National Party and the Māori Party will act in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty is our country’s founding document. It created a nation based on diversity and shared aspirations for future success and prosperity."


* source:

Martha Reilly assisted with this article.

For more detailed information see:

See earlier articles in this series: 2011 General Election and government formation; and, 2014 General Election and government formation.

See Dr Maria Bargh's analysis of the 2017 General Election: “Ma Pango, Ma Whero…” - Māori campaigning and voting in the 2017 General Election