New Zealand electorates

An electorate is a geographical constituency used for electing members to the New Zealand Parliament. In informal discussion, electorates are often called seats.[lower-alpha 1] The most formal description, electoral district, is used in legislation.[1] The size of electorates is determined on a population basis such that all electorates have approximately the same population.

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Before 1996, all members of Parliament were directly chosen for office by the voters of an electorate. Starting from 2014 under the MMP electoral system, 71 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 70 electorates in the 2008 and 2011 elections). 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. Elections for the New Zealand House of Representatives in the 1850s modelled the electoral procedures used for the British House of Commons, which at that time featured both single-member electorates (electorates returning just one MP) and multi-member electorates (electorates returning more than one MP).[2] Each electorate was allocated a different number of MPs (up to three) in order to balance population differences. All electorates used a plurality voting system.[3] From 1881, a special country quota meant that rural seats could contain fewer people than urban seats, preserving improportionality by over-representing farmers.[4] For the 1905 election the multi-member electorates were abolished. The quota system persisted until 1945.[2]

As of 2018 the Representation Commission determines electorate boundaries.[5] The Commission consists of:

  • Four government officialsthe 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 bloc.
  • A chairperson (often a judge) nominated by the other members (with the exception of Chairperson of the Local Government Commission).[5]

The Representation Commission reviews electorate boundaries after each New Zealand census, which normally occurs every five years.[1] 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 help calculate the number of Māori electorates and to determine the number of North Island electorates. The number of Māori electorates is influenced 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 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) is divided into electorates, each of approximately the same population as the South Island ones.[6] Electorates may vary by no more than 5% of the average population size.[1] 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 both to internal migration and to immigration.[7]

Because of the increasing North Island population, the Representation Commission awarded the North Island an additional electoral seat beginning in the 2008 general election.[8] Another new North Island seat was added for the 2014 general election.[9] Each time, the need for an extra seat was determined from the results of the most recent New Zealand census, with the seat coming out of the total number of list seats. The total number of list seats has thus declined from 55 to 49 since the introduction of Mixed Member Proportional voting in 1996.

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 been awarded. In 2005 and 2011, 121 members were elected; 122 members were elected in 2008.[10]


The Representation Commission determines the names of each electorate following the most recent census.[5] An electorate may be named after a geographic region, landmark (e.g. a mountain) or main population centre. The Commission adopts compass point names when there is not a more suitable name. The compass point reference usually follows the name of the main population centre, e.g. Hamilton East.

Special electorates

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.[11] 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.[12] 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 52nd Parliament

This table shows the electorates as they are represented, as of 24 September 2017, during the 52nd New Zealand Parliament.

General electorates

Electorate Region(s) MP Party
Auckland Central Auckland (Central) Nikki Kaye National
Bay of Plenty Bay of Plenty Todd Muller National
Botany Auckland (East) Jami-Lee Ross Independent
Christchurch Central Canterbury Duncan Webb Labour
Christchurch East Canterbury Poto Williams Labour
Clutha-Southland Southland; Otago Hamish Walker National
Coromandel Waikato Scott Simpson National
Dunedin North Otago David Clark Labour
Dunedin South Otago Clare Curran Labour
East Coast Gisborne; Bay of Plenty Anne Tolley National
East Coast Bays Auckland (North) Erica Stanford National
Epsom Auckland (Central) David Seymour ACT
Hamilton East Waikato David Bennett National
Hamilton West Waikato Tim Macindoe National
Helensville Auckland (West) Chris Penk National
Hunua Auckland (South) Andrew Bayly National
Hutt South Wellington Chris Bishop National
Ilam Canterbury Gerry Brownlee National
Invercargill Southland Sarah Dowie National
Kaikōura Marlborough; Canterbury Stuart Smith National
Kelston Auckland (West) Carmel Sepuloni Labour
Mana Wellington Kris Faafoi Labour
Māngere Auckland (South) William Sio Labour
Manukau East Auckland (South) Jenny Salesa Labour
Manurewa Auckland (South) Louisa Wall Labour
Maungakiekie Auckland (Central) Denise Lee National
Mt Albert Auckland (Central) Jacinda Ardern Labour
Mt Roskill Auckland (Central) Michael Wood Labour
Napier Hawke's Bay Stuart Nash Labour
Nelson Nelson; Tasman Nick Smith National
New Lynn Auckland (West) Deborah Russell Labour
New Plymouth Taranaki Jonathan Young National
North Shore Auckland (North) Maggie Barry National
Northcote Auckland (North) Dan Bidois National
Northland Northland Matt King National
Ōhariu Wellington Greg O'Connor Labour
Ōtaki Wellington; Manawatu-Wanganui Nathan Guy National
Pakuranga Auckland (East) Simeon Brown National
Palmerston North Manawatu-Wanganui Iain Lees-Galloway Labour
Papakura Auckland (South) Judith Collins National
Port Hills Canterbury Ruth Dyson Labour
Rangitata Canterbury Andrew Falloon National
Rangitīkei Manawatu-Wanganui Ian McKelvie National
Rimutaka Wellington Chris Hipkins Labour
Rodney Auckland (North) Mark Mitchell National
Rongotai Wellington Paul Eagle Labour
Rotorua Bay of Plenty Todd McClay National
Selwyn Canterbury Amy Adams National
Tāmaki Auckland (Central) Simon O'Connor National
Taranaki-King Country Taranaki; Waikato Barbara Kuriger National
Taupō Waikato Louise Upston National
Tauranga Bay of Plenty Simon Bridges National
Te Atatu Auckland (West) Phil Twyford Labour
Tukituki Hawke's Bay Lawrence Yule National
Upper Harbour Auckland (North) Paula Bennett National
Waikato Waikato Tim van de Molen National
Waimakariri Canterbury Matthew Doocey National
Wairarapa Wellington; Manawatu-Wanganui Alastair Scott National
Waitaki Otago; Canterbury Jacqui Dean National
Wellington Central Wellington Grant Robertson Labour
West Coast-Tasman West Coast; Tasman Damien O'Connor Labour
Whanganui Manawatu-Wanganui; Taranaki Harete Hipango National
Whangarei Northland Shane Reti National
Wigram Canterbury Megan Woods Labour

Māori electorates

Electorate Region(s) MP Party
Hauraki-Waikato Waikato; Auckland Nanaia Mahuta Labour
Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Hawke's Bay; Gisborne; Manawatu-Wanganui; Wellington Meka Whaitiri Labour
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Peeni Henare Labour
Te Tai Hauāuru Taranaki; Waikato; Manawatu-Wanganui; Wellington Adrian Rurawhe Labour
Te Tai Tokerau Northland; Auckland Kelvin Davis Labour
Te Tai Tonga South Island; Wellington Rino Tirikatene Labour
Waiariki Bay of Plenty; Waikato Tamati Coffey Labour

Abolished electorates

General electorates

Māori electorates

Goldminers' electorates


  1. More generally "seat" refers to an elected member's place in Parliament; this includes list MPs.


  1. "Electoral Act 1993 No 87 (as at 01 July 2016), Public Act Contents". New Zealand Legislation. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  2. Roberts, Nigel S. (20 June 2012). "Electoral systems - Turning votes into seats". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  3. Roberts, Nigel S. (17 February 2015). "Electoral systems - Turning votes into seats". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 16 October 2018. Both the single-member and the multi-member districts were instances of plurality voting systems, because candidates did not need a majority of the votes (more than half) to be elected. They required only a plurality – more votes than any of the other candidates – to win.
  4. Atkinson, Neill (2003). Adventures in democracy: a history of the vote in New Zealand. Dunedin: University of Otago Press. p. 76.
  5. "Representation Commission". Electoral Commission (New Zealand). Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  6. "Calculating future Māori and General Electorates". Electoral Commission (New Zealand). 1 October 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  7. "Proportion of electorate seats to list seats" (PDF). Electoral Commission. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  8. "Report of the Representation Commission, 2007" (PDF). Representation Commission. 2007. p. 4. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  9. "2014 Electorate Boundaries - Key Changes". Electoral Commission. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  10. "Overhang" (PDF). Electoral Commission. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  11. "Electoral Amendment Act 1975". Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  12. "Electoral Act, 1956". Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  • Electoral profiles, produced by the Parliamentary Library, New Zealand Parliament.
  • Map of electorates with boundaries, produced by the Parliamentary Library, run by the Electoral Commission, the Electoral Enrolment Centre, the Representation Commission, and the Justice Sector.
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