The Number of Electorates

Every place in New Zealand is covered by both a General electorate and a Māori electorate. An electorate is a voting area for parliamentary elections. 

Electorates vary in geographic size but they have about the same number of people in them.  A member of Parliament is elected to represent the people in each electorate.  

Currently New Zealand is divided into 71 electorates – 64 General electorates and 7 Māori electorates. 

Before the next boundary review can be held, the Government Statistician at Stats NZ will use the results of the census and the Māori Electoral Option to calculate the electoral populations and work out how many Māori and General electorates there should be.

Electoral populations

The census counts the population usually living in New Zealand and is used to calculate the following:

  • the Māori electoral population
  • General electoral population - North Island
  • General electoral population - South Island

The Māori electoral population is calculated using a statutory formula.  This population includes:

  • people registered on the Māori roll 
  • plus a proportion of people of Māori descent who are not registered as electors
  • plus a proportion of people of Māori descent who are under the age of 18.

The General electoral population is the ordinarily resident population at the last census minus the Māori electoral population.

Working out the number of electorates

The number of South Island General electorates is fixed at 16 by the Electoral Act 1993.  The number of North Island General electorates and the number of Māori electorates can increase or decrease or stay the same.

To calculate the number of North Island General and Māori electorates the Government Statistician:­

  • divides the South Island General electoral population by 16 (this  provides the average electoral population for South Island General electorates and is referred to as the South Island quota)
  • divides the Māori electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of Māori electorates, and
  • divides the North Island General electoral population by the South Island quota to work out the number of General electorates for the North Island. 

What happens next?

After the Government Statistician completes their report on the electoral populations and number of electorates, the information is provided to the Surveyor General at Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).  The Surveyor General prepares provisional boundaries showing the distribution of the population and then calls a meeting of the Representation Commission to begin its review of the electorate boundaries.

Last updated: 18 April 2019