It concluded that the seats had not helped Māori and that they would achieve better representation through a proportional party-list system. The Commission therefore recommended that if the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system was adopted, the Māori seats should be abolished.
As the prospect of electoral reform became more real in 1992-3, some Māori began to rally to the defence of the seats. Eventually, following strong representations from Māori organisations, the seats were retained under the new MMP system. Their number was allowed to increase or decrease according to the results of the regular Māori electoral option.
Before the first MMP election in 1996 the number of Māori seats was increased, for the first time in their 129-year history, to five. In 2002 there were seven.
The Māori electoral system 'stumbled into being' in the 1860s as a solution to a supposedly temporary 'problem'. Its appropriateness and effectiveness have been the subject of debate ever since. Nevertheless, the Māori seats have survived to become one of the most distinctive features of New Zealand's electoral system.