Call to help shape constitution

New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Israel can lay claim to being the only three countries in the world without a formal constitution, written into a single document.

That could change, if Kiwis want it to, following the results and recommendations of the Constitutional Advisory Panel in December.

Former journalist and Act MP Deborah Coddington is one of 12 people on the panel and she presented an update on its work to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's regional planning committee yesterday.

Ms Coddington, who grew up in Central Hawke's Bay, said the panel was initially set up to ask the public if the Treaty of Waitangi should be enshrined into a New Zealand constitution.

"The panel was set up between National and the Maori Party. The Maori Party wanted a constitution with the Treaty of Waitangi in it but the conversation we've having with people has got bigger and really taken on a life of its own.

"Members of the panel have talked with groups and it's become clear that not all Maori want the Treaty written into a constitution."

People were taking the chance to have a say on all constitution matters, judging by the submissions sent into the panel so far.

"It really is a chance to have your say on how this country is ruled and what it might look like in the future. How should Maori views be represented by government and local government? Does the Bill of Rights protect enough of your rights?

"There are also the pros and cons of having our constitution down in a single paper and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution."

Whether List MPs should remain in parliament if fired by their parties was another issue people might comment on.

"New Zealand is one of three countries that don't have a constitution. You can say we do have one, but it takes a while to access it because it's in different places. And so another question we're asking is whether we should have a constitution in one paper or in one booklet for everyone to access."

The panel had so far met with groups such as Rotary, Federated Farmers, Youth Live, Maori Women's Welfare League, Grey Power, U3A and Community Law Centre.

"There are also people setting up their own meetings, coming together around their kitchen tables to talk about this or setting up their own Facebook pages."

The Department of Statistics had provided data to the panel which suggested what the country "is going to be like" in 50 years. It was part of the information pack the panel was distributing to the public to encourage people to make submissions.

"We've asked two important questions: What are your aspirations for New Zealand and how to you want your country to be run in the future?"

Submissions to the panel close on July 1 and the feedback will be used to show the government the important issues which should be taken forward.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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