The government's constitutional review reported back at the
end of last year with an overall recommendation that we keep
discussing New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. On its
face, an uninspiring recommendation, but it has many interesting
Support for entrenchment
Probably of most legal interest is that while there is no broad
support for a supreme constitution, there was considerable support
for entrenching elements of the constitution. Entrenchment refers
to the enactment of legislation with special protections, so that
subsequent amendments require more than a standard parliamentary
majority (commonly a 85% majority is required).
Entrenchment, however, is a major constitutional issue in
itself. There is no mechanism in our legal arrangements for
entrenchment especially as the right of parliament to amend
legislation as it wishes is respected by the Courts. The Courts are
also unwilling to closely review parliament's actions.
Other possible changes
Other significant recommendations from a legal perspective are
Continue the role and status of the Treaty of Waitangi in New
Consider expending the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to
cover economic, social and cultural rights, property rights and
Give the judiciary powers to assess legislation for consistency
with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Consider a longer term for parliament and a fixed election
The review process
The review began in early in 2011 with the appointment of a
panel following agreement between National and the Maori parties
after the 2008 election. The panel's mandate to investigate
constitutional issues was broad, being to:
Stimulate public debate and awareness.
Provide the government with an understanding of New Zealanders
Provide advice on constitutional topics, including any points
of broad consensus where further work was recommended.
The panel carried out a wide consultation including community
meetings and had a Facebook page. Over 5,000 submissions were
received. Overall the feedback showed strong interest across a
range of people and organisations in the constitution.
The next step is for the government to respond to the
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