Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Support for republic weak: report

Review panel finds little desire for changing constitutional status quo but says conversation should continue

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

The panel looking at New Zealand's constitutional arrangements says it did not find strong support for republicanism in the 120 meetings it held and 5259 written submissions it received.

It said one grouping wanted a republican model and thought an elected president would better reflect democratic ideals.

But another grouping suggested that under the system of constitutional monarchy with the Queen as Head of State, New Zealand has had a stable, well-functioning democracy.

Change was not desirable in the eyes of that grouping because there was no certainty that another model would operate as effectively.

"The panel did not identify strong support for a change to a presidential republic," the panel's report said.

The Constitutional Review Panel has delivered its final report to the Government and its main recommendation is that the "conversation" about New Zealand's constitutional arrangements continue.

The Government is now considering its response.

The panels says there was no broad support for a written constitution but suggests there could be an advantage in putting the different parts of New Zealand's constitution into a single law.

On the issue of the Treaty of Waitangi, the panel wants the Government to set up a process to examine options for the future role of the treaty.

It also wants a treaty education strategy developed so people can be informed about the rights and obligations of the treaty.

In identifying subjects for further discussion the panel points to some potentially far-reaching issues such as requiring all laws be consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, effectively making it supreme law which would allow the judiciary to strike down laws inconsistent with it.

The panel also suggests discussion on extending the rights that would be covered by the act to include economic, social and cultural rights, property rights and environmental rights.

At present protections under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 include democratic and civil rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, protections against discrimination, and protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The panel looked at some electoral issues as well. It wants more work done to address the geographically large Moari and rurual electorates.

On party hopping, it noted concerns by MPs about MPs leaving parties they were elected to but the panel made no recommendation on reviving the law banning it.

The panel suggested that in the event of further consideration of constitutional arrangements, other issues to be discussed should include: republicanism and the flag, the Declaration of Independence, an upper house and the use of urgency by Parliament.

The panel was set up under the terms of the confidence and supply agreement between the Maori Party and National. It's work has been overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

The panel was co-chaired by Sir Tipene O'Regan and Emeritus Professor John Burrows.


Defining a nation

Constitutional Review Panel's views:

• Written constitution: No broad support but raises possibility of putting constitutional protections into a single statute. Says it may be desirable to set up independent group to continue discussion and inform the discussion.

• The Treaty of Waitangi: Wants the Government to set up a process to examine options for the future role of the treaty and wants a treaty education strategy developed so people can be informed about the rights and obligations of the treaty.

• New Zealand Bill of Rights Act: wants further discussion on making the Bill of Rights Act supreme law, which would insist that all legislation be consistent with it and allow the judiciary to strike down laws inconsistent with it; and further discussion on adding economic, social and cultural rights, property rights and environmental rights.

• Size of Parliament: Recommends no further work on extending it beyond the 120 MPs.

• Term of Parliament: says there is reasonable support for it but setting a fixed date should be explored at the same time. Says it should be done by way of referendum.

• The panel's recommendations can be seen at ourconstitution.org.nz.

- NZ Herald

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