Māori Party and the Human Rights Act

How is the Māori Party not illegal as a racially-based organisation?

The short answer is that the Māori Party is not an illegal racially-based organization.

New Zealand law does not prevent any group which is based on an ethnicity or nationality forming a club or an association or a political party or some other entity to promote the particular concerns of that group e.g. the New Zealand Chinese Association, the North Otago Scottish Society Inc, etc etc.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) affirms a number of fundamental human rights and freedoms which include the right to freedom of association, the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of thought. The right of individuals or groups to form clubs or associations or political parties are protected by the NZBORA.

Apart from the protections in the NZBORA there is a question as to whether membership of a political party is an area of life covered by the Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA). It is far more likely than not that the HRA does not apply to membership of a political party just as it does not apply to membership of a private club.

In giving her reasons for decision in the case of Prebble v Awatere Huata the Chief Justice made some pertinent observations about membership of a political party:

  • “The question of membership of a parliamentary party is essentially governed by the rules of association of the party. The rules constitute a contract between the members and can be enforced through application to a court.”
  • “Both ACT New Zealand and the parliamentary party derived from it are unincorporated associations which exist for political purposes. They are organised under the rules adopted by their members. While a court will enforce the agreement between the members of such bodies, including implied terms importing requirements of procedural fairness, associations will typically have wide freedom in their internal arrangements, including in the determination of their own membership and the achievement of their objects.”

Anyone who is 13 years of age or older is eligible to join the Māori Party. The Māori Party’s rules on eligibility for membership are set out in Part 2, Section 3 on the membership rules pages of the Māori Party’s website.