The people of New Zealand have spoken with a strong majority voting yes for euthanasia and, by a slightly lesser margin, no for the legalisation of cannabis.
The preliminary results prompted a mixed bag of reactions from people in Rotorua, with one school principal calling the cannabis vote "sensible" and saying he hoped the Government would put the issue to rest now.
Meanwhile, a local GP backed the euthanasia results, saying if he had a terminal illness himself, he would want the option.
About 65.2 per cent voted yes for euthanasia, compared to 33.8 per cent against, while 46.1 per cent voted for legalised cannabis, compared to 53.1 per cent against.
Nearly 500,000 special votes still need to be counted, but the margin between the support and opposition for euthanasia and cannabis were both wide enough that it was likely the preliminary results would stand.
The final results for the referendums will be released next Friday.
The End of Life Choice referendum was binding and the majority "yes" vote would see it become law, with terminal patients able to request assisted dying from November 6 next year.
John Armstrong, a retired Rotorua GP who practised for 44 years, said it was a "difficult one for him" but he was in full support of the result.
He said he had seen patients in his time who were diagnosed with debilitating illnesses such as motor neurone disease and would have liked to have the choice.
A chance to end "continuous suffering" and give people with "no hope of survival" an option was important, he said.
"I know if I had a terminal illness, I would want the option."
Armstrong, however, also backed the country's palliative care system and said he had seen people die from illnesses comfortably and peacefully in these facilities.
"It's a highly effective service."
Rotorua Community Hospice chose to take a collective approach to the referendum and posted its stance on its website.
It said it would take "conscientious objection" and would not be providing euthanasia services.
"We have taken this position because we fully support the philosophy of hospice to aim to neither hasten nor postpone death and we believe that euthanasia does not have a place in palliative care.
"We believe with good support people can live well until they die, and their family and whānau can be an important part of this time and need support also."
To meet the criteria for assisted dying, a person must suffer from a terminal illness that's likely to end their life within six months, be 18 or over, a citizen or permanent resident of New Zealand, have significant and ongoing decline in physical capability, experience unbearable suffering that cannot be eased, and be able to make an informed decision about assisted dying.
These criteria must be agreed on by the person's doctor and an independent doctor. If either is unsure of the person's ability to make that decision, a psychiatrist will be needed. Anyone living with mental illness, disability or advanced age will not be eligible.
Act Party leader David Seymour had been advocating for the End of Life Bill for close to five years since he put it forward in the ballot.
It was not the first time the bill had been raised in Parliament. In 1995 National MP Michael Laws' Death with Dignity Bill and in 2003 NZ First MP Peter Brown's Bill, by the same name, were voted out.
In 2012, The End of Life legislation was developed and put into Parliamentary ballot by former Labour MP Maryan Street. However, it was not drawn before she left in 2014.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said the people of New Zealand made the right decision, and now the politicians needed to leave the matter alone.
He said the no vote was "sensible".
"I'm hoping the Government will park it up now, the people have expressed their views ... it's a matter that needs to be left as it is.
Walsh said cannabis should remain on the books as a crime but he believed a therapeutic and educative approach should be adopted over prosecution.
"Police should be given full discretion on whether or not they should prosecute, and in most cases, they ought not to."
However, criminal lawyer Tim Braithwaite said he was "disappointed" that the referendum was made a "political football" and that "good people will continue to face criminal convictions for what is a health issue and a victimless personal preference".
- Additional reporting NZ Herald