The Constitutional Advisory Panel is currently calling for submissions on New Zealand’s Constitution. It may come as a surprise to you, but yes, we actually have one, though not in a single document: “Our constitutional rules include legislation such as the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Constitution Act 1986, foundational documents such as the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840 and constitutional principles.” The deadline for submissions has been extended to the 31st of July.
Co-chair Sir Tipene O’Regan says the extension gives people extra time to consider the issues and additional time for organisations to consult with their membership.
He says it has become increasingly clear to the Panel that more time is needed to develop public awareness about our constitutional arrangements and the impact it has on their daily lives.
“What we’re starting to see around the country is a better understanding of the issues and a broader range of ideas. We’ve received more than 1500 submissions so far. We are keen to give more people and organisations the opportunity to submit their views.”
Co-chair Emeritus Professor John Burrows says the deadline extension means the Panel will not have time to undertake a second round of submissions as originally intended however he says “Each one of the 12 Panel members has heard from a diverse range of groups and individuals. I’m confident that as a group we will accurately reflect the range of views we’ve heard to the Government.”
During the first half of 2013 the Constitutional Advisory Panel has heard and continues to hear from individuals and communities around the country. Panel members have attended more than 100 events.
Key themes emerging from the submissions and discussions so far include our common values, our changing population, the checks and balances on the institutions that hold public power in New Zealand, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitutional arrangements, the balance between majority and minority rights, the protection of Māori culture and identity, equality, processes of constitutional change and improving the level of knowledge about our constitution.
The public can find out more information about the constitutional issues and terms of reference by going online to www.ourconstitution.org.nz or by ordering printed resources and meeting toolkits via the free phone number 0508-411-411. You can also join the Conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheConstitutionConversation.
The Panel is due to report back to the Government with recommendations by December 2013.