The Constitutional Advisory Panel welcomes the release by Ministers of the Panel’s report on the Constitution Conversation.
Panel co-chair Sir Tipene O’Regan says the Panel heard from a wide range of people and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. The strongest message the Panel heard is that the Government should actively support a continuing conversation about our country’s constitution. The Panel recommends the Government does this by promoting civics, Treaty of Waitangi and citizenship education in our schools and communities and by supporting people to inform themselves about the options for our constitution.
“A healthy democracy depends on engaged, inquiring and well-informed citizens”, says O’Regan. “We heard that New Zealanders are keen to inform themselves and to talk deliberately and consciously about the unique development of Aotearoa New Zealand as a nation.”
The Panel’s report says the Government needs to ensure people can find out more about the current constitutional arrangements and options for the future.
While many of the Panel’s recommendations on the constitutional topics acknowledge there is a need for more discussion and further development, the Panel has made a recommendation to the Government on the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
Co-chair Emeritus Professor Burrows says, “The Act is seen as a fundamental and enduring part of the protections in our constitution. It’s also apparent that people would support a review of the Act to explore whether it can be made more effective.”
The Panel recommends a review of the Act to explore ways to limit Parliament’s ability to pass legislation that is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act and to protect the Act from change. The review could also look at adding more rights to the Act, including economic, social and cultural rights, environmental rights and property rights.
On the Treaty of Waitangi, O’Regan says “The Treaty is a founding document of government in New Zealand. Having heard from a wide range of New Zealanders, the Panel’s view is that we need better information about the options for the future role of the Treaty. We can then talk constructively about developing constitutional arrangements that reflect this unique and diverse nation,” says O’Regan.
The Panel recommends continuing the conversation about Māori-Crown relationships with a view to developing options for the Treaty’s future role, and does not recommend at this time including the Treaty of Waitangi in a written constitution or abolishing the Māori seats.
You can view all of the Panel’s recommendations on the constitutional topics and the full report A Report on a Conversation: He Kōtuinga Kōrero mō Te Kaupapa Ture o Aotearoa online at www.ourconstitution.org.nz
Burrows says the report represents the collective view of the Panel members. The Panel hopes the report will form a useful reference for future conversations.
“It’s now up to the Government to decide what they will do with the recommendations. But this isn’t just about government, it’s also up to communities and individuals to inform themselves and to continue the conversation.”
About the Constitutional Advisory Panel
The Constitutional Advisory Panel is an independent advisory group appointed by the Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and the Minister of Māori Affairs Dr Pita Sharples in August 2011.
Members of the Panel are Emeritus Professor John Burrows (Co-chair), Sir Tipene O’Regan (Co-chair), Peter Chin, Deborah Coddington, Hon Sir Michael Cullen, Hon John Luxton, Bernice Mene, Dr Leonie Pihama, Hinurewa Poutu, Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Peter Tennent and Dr Ranginui Walker.
The Panel’s role was to seek, listen and record the views of New Zealanders on the constitutional issues described in the Terms of Reference and to report back to the Government by the end of 2013.
The Terms of Reference included a written constitution, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori representation in Parliament and local government, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and a range of electoral matters.
In February to July 2013, the general public had the opportunity to make written submissions via email or online, join the Constitution Conversation on Facebook and attend meetings and hui on the Terms of Reference. The Panel attended and supported more than 120 meetings and hui, received 5,259 written submissions and had more than 6,400 people join its Facebook page.
The final report and the information resources created for the Constitution Conversation are available at www.ourconstitution.org.nz