New Zealand's 1853 electoral franchise was theoretically 'colour-blind'. But in reality very few Māori could qualify under the property requirement because they possessed their lands communally (as iwi, hapu or whanau groups) and not under individual freehold or leasehold title like Europeans. In 1859 the British Crown Law office confirmed that Māori could not vote unless they had individual title granted by the Crown.
European colonists generally welcomed this state of affairs, because they did not think Māori were yet 'civilised' enough to exercise such an important responsibility. They were also worried that if large numbers of Māori were enrolled, they could 'swamp' the votes of settlers in many North Island electorates.
In any case, in the 1850s and 1860s few Māori were interested in the 'Pakeha Parliament' - they preferred to deal directly with the Governor (and the Queen) or, like the Kingitanga movement, create their own political structures.
During the wars of the early 1860s, however, some European politicians argued that it was vital to assimilate Māori into the political mainstream to ensure lasting peace between the two races. They were also keen to reward those Māori tribes who had fought alongside the Crown.
Did you know?
In 1853 about 100 Māori (mostly tribal leaders) were enrolled to vote - out of a total electorate of 5,849.