BIG NEWS

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Constitutional review

The Government has finally announced details of its constitutional review.

The review will include matters such as the size of Parliament, the length of the electoral term, Maori representation, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and whether New Zealand needs a written constitution. Bill English and Pita Sharples will lead the review in consultation with a cross-party reference group of MPs. They will write to all party leaders in the next few days and ask them to nominate a representative for the cross party reference group.

This will be followed by a public consultation process, with a break during the second half of next year for the MMP referendum and general election.

The whole process will be completed in 2013. This is after the next Maori Electoral Option and when we know what our electoral system will be after the referenda. It is also after the Electoral Commission’s review of MMP should we decide to stick with it. The Government then has six months to respond to the final report . This is five and a half years after the agreement to undertake such a review.

The only part of this process that will occur before the 2011 election is one of clarifying the issues and developing strategy for engagement. So the public won’t be involved until after the election.

The following will be part of the review:

Electoral matters including:
• The size of Parliament.
• The length of terms of Parliament and whether or not the term should be fixed.
• The size and number of electorates, including the method for calculating size.
• Electoral integrity legislation.

Crown-Maori relationship matters including:
• Maori representation including the Maori Electoral Option, Maori electoral participation and Maori seats in Parliament and local government.
• The role of the Treaty of Waitangi within New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements.

Other constitutional matters
• Whether New Zealand should have a written constitution.
• Bill of Rights issues.

What won’t be part of the review is a discussion on binding referenda, or whether NZ should become a republic.

Any proposals to reform elements of the constitutional framework will only be decided after securing broad cross-party agreement in the House or the majority support of voters at a referendum.

The Cabinet paper is here. Details of the last review are here.

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