Ngai Tahu leader Sir Tipene O'Regan and legal scholar John Burrows will lead a government appointed panel which is to lead public discussion on constitutional issues including the status of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said the independent 12 member Constitutional Advisory Panel would begin work shortly "on a plan to inform public debate on New Zealand's constitutional arrangements".

The panel includes former politicians Michael Cullen, Deborah Coddington and John Luxton as well as former Silver Fern turned broadcaster Bernice Mene.

Dr Sharples said the panel was a good mixture of people.


"There's some old heads who have been around constitutional issues for years but I think it's good to have some young blood in there because this is a changing time."

The panel has strong Maori representation including Waitangi Tribunal member and academic Ranginui Walker.

"An important part of the review process will be consultation with Maori, particularly on the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution," Dr Sharples said.

"The business over the Treaty has gone on for so long now and there's been year after year of demonstrations up in Waitangi because of the people feeling the Treaty has not been acknowledged and implemented in this way.

"The members of this are well placed to seek out and understand the perspectives of Maori on these important issues."

While the question of whether New Zealand should become a republic was not in the list of topics the panel would consider, Dr Sharples said they were free to consult on it.

"They can look at anything they want to."

Issues around a republic were not in the original terms of reference, "in case it got side tracked as perhaps the main reason for doing this."


The panel will also consider electoral issues including the size of parliament, the length of the parliamentary term, and number and size of electorates and the status of Maori seats.

It will also consider whether New Zealand should have a written constitution and Bill of Rights issues.

Dr Sharples said a Royal Commissions was considered to carry out the work, "but just selecting people of mana and a range and setting them up under their own authority and giving a lengthy period would have the same effect".

"These guys don't actually set the kaupapa, it still comes back to parliament. A Royal Commission usually comes up with some golden recommendations and if you don't take them people question you."

Constitutional Advisory Panel
Co-chairs: Emeritus Professor John Burrows, Sir Tipene O'Regan

Peter Chin
Deborah Coddington
Michael Cullen
John Luxton
Bernice Mene
Leonie Pihama
Hinurewa Poutu
Linda Smith
Peter Tennent
Ranginui Walker