Entrenching Maori seats no problem for Clark

Labour leader Helen Clark has indicated her party won't have a problem with the Maori Party's demand for the Maori seats to be entrenched in law.

Entrenching the seats, which means a 75 percent majority vote in Parliament would be needed to abolish them, is a bottom line for the Maori Party in any post-election negotiations.

Miss Clark said today Labour was committed to the Maori electoral option, which gives Maori voters the option every five years to enrol on the general or Maori roll.

The number of voters on the Maori roll determines how many seats there are.

"I don't have any particular difficulty with entrenching those," she said.

A spokesman for Miss Clark said she meant entrenching the seats through the electoral option, rather than entrenching a set number of seats.

There are seven at present, but that can go up or down depending on the number of people on the Maori roll.

The National Party will have problems with the Maori Party's bottom line because it has a policy to eventually abolish the seats.

National's leader, John Key, has said abolishing the seats is not a bottom line for his party and he won't comment on the situation beyond that.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia was pleased with Miss Clark's latest comments.

"It's not too long ago they were saying they didn't see a reason to entrench the seats because they would never go unless Maori People said so, but we never ever have had the political will for the seats to be entrenched," she said.

"I'm pleased that Labour's said they will."

Miss Clark also said entrenching the seats would not necessarily guard them against a government determined to get rid of them.

She said the entrenchment provision itself could be removed on a simple majority.

Although that possibility exists, it would be a risky and unlikely step for any government to take.

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