Does New Zealand Need a Constitution.

Opinion by Andi Cockroft, Chairman CORANZ

Inheriting the British governmental style, GodZone relies on “Common Law” as a backstop to judicial thinking. Common Law acts as a precedent-setting set of decisions that are passed down over the years. We still have many Common Law “statutes” on our books from pre-Colonial days.

Without a written Constitution, it means that our highest law-making establishment, Parliament, can put down new laws that override centuries of Common Law at a single stroke.

Whereas places such as the US have a written Constitution (amended over the past two centuries) that allows a Supreme Judiciary to overrule any Law – or even an Executive Order – and strike it down. The Constitution is paramount.

We witnessed over the past few US Presidency’s, the use of the Executive Order to achieve their policies and bypassing both Congress and Senate. The only handbrake to that was the Supreme Court.

What we see now appearing in GodZone is hastily created legislation that either bypasses or basically ignores any form of public review. The Select Committee should be our process of ultimate scrutiny of any new legislation, but over the past two decades or more, the process has been diluted so much as to render it useless. Either the consultation time is so ridiculously short as to make it impossible for anyone to be heard, or any adverse submissions are simply ignored.

Now we see the proposed “Fast Track” legislation, which if enacted will allow a group of politically (and possibly financially) motivated Ministers to bypass all checks and balances we would otherwise expect.

Bypassing all existing legislation such as the Conservation Act, The Resource Management Act and heaven knows how many planning rules and regulations, projects that have the potential to produce incredible harm to Society as well as Nature can be green-lighted with no option to object.

Whilst I am no fan of a switch away from Centuries of Common Law to a codified one in the form of a written Constitution, I do find it somewhat repugnant that our long-standing Legislation and Common Laws are being bypassed in such an underhanded and cavalier manner.

With such a politically motivated judiciary, it is hard to see that a written Constitution would benefit us much if Judges weren’t prepared to do the honourable thing and enforce it.

Nonetheless, the current rush to launch the Fast-Track Approvals Bill on an unsuspecting Public will completely bypass any chance of future public consultation, leaving us completely unable to provide either opposition or support. Is that something we are happy to accept?

So, should we move to a written Constitution? The jury may still be out on that one.

This entry was posted in Home. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Does New Zealand Need a Constitution.

  1. Charles Henry says:

    Parliament “Consultation” is a joke. The Select Committee process has become nothing more than a virtue-signalling exercise pretending to listen and then ignore public input. That is even if Consultation even takes place. A few years ago, the hastened firearms legislation following Tarrant’s attack drew thousands of submission and these were “reviewed” in less than 3 days but of course they didn’t fit the agenda so were ignored. Other Select Committee processes are similarly just flag-waving exercises. What’s the bet any “Consultation” on the Fast-Track Bill will likewise have a pre-determined outcome?

  2. Dave Rhodes says:

    The problem is not whether we should have a written Constitution, but how can we arrive at a neutral, unbiased Judiciary?
    We had one Court of final appeal via the Privy Council – that is until Helen Clark and her Government enacted the Supreme Court Act 2003. This was probably the most dramatic Constitutional change made since New Zealand was founded. And it was done with no Public Consultation whatsoever. The shear arrogance of that 2nd term Labour Government was to prove all the worse in their 3rd term.
    The irony is not lost on me that Helen Clark was appointed to sit on the Privy Council as far back as 1990.

    • Amy Brooke says:

      Regardless of all the very good points made so far and yes, the select committees have become shockingly farcical, our now activist judges demonstrably can’t be trusted. So to leave a written constitution to them or any other power brokers would be a disaster. They’re now trying to incorporate tikanga – nebulous Maori customs and practices into the courts, to challenge our longstanding common law.

  3. Tony Orman says:

    Select committees have become just a token nod to democracy and hearing the public’s views. You can glance at this and say it’s nothing to with trout, rivers, wilderness or whatever outdoor issue. But it is, every outdoor issue should be treated democratically with the people’s views of paramount importance. Face it, successive governments National or Labour or led by either have eroded the democratic rights of the people. Andi Cockroft’s opinion piece gets to the core of every political problem and threat.

  4. James Mackenzie says:

    Politicians! I have come to the conclusion most of them are sheep blindly following their leader or the party’s agenda. Promises before election become very hollow once politicians are elected. It is time for people power, not politicians’ power. Andi Cockroft’s article is very timely in the light of the ignorant, draconian Fast Track Approvals Bill of Jones and Bishop, both ego-driven politicians.

  5. Honest Dave says:

    Absolutely!!! Based on the US & the one being
    put together in Australia by the Australia One Party.

    A public referenda please along with the public’s approval for FOUR
    year parliamentary terms. ( I’m a convert to 4 year terms VERY recently).

  6. Peter says:

    A law system of any sort is a waste of time when being over ridden y by corruption drive bulldozers.
    Peter Bragg

  7. Tim Neville says:

    Successive Labour and National (Coalition) governments have avoided the word “Constitution” because they know that they will have to recognise the rights of Maori as guaranteed in the Treaty of Waitangi; rights that go well beyond the land settlements. To do so would bring every shade of prejudice out in the open; and all the conflict that could go with it. Every major party knows that they will alienate some of the core supporters in doing so. As a result sleeping dogs are left to lie. I think that the power and ego components of our current crop of M.P.s is the greatest hurdle.
    I like Cockroft’s piece and its logic but feel that only a grand coalition involving at least both major parties could achieve it. Is that achievable? Well once the eminent people of the day thought that heavier than air planes would never fly.

  8. Justice Will B. Dunn. says:

    I’d need to be convinced – the fiasco that is the US Supreme Court is not reassuring for such a massive change to our existing constitutional structure. Regarding the point that Parliament can ride rough shod over Common Law etc, well that is kind of the point – if you really don’t like the new law then get a party elected to power that can change it back. On the surface that seems to be a better mechanism than having a bunch of politically appointed hacks (that don’t even need to be legally trained let alone judges in US example) decide along the lines of those who appointed them rather than being directly accountable to voters ala our MPs.

  9. Charles Baycroft says:

    In New Zealand, a thing called “The Crown” that does not really exist, is considered to be the highest power or authority.
    This Crown is a lot like God.

    It is not a person, organization or any real entity but some political authorities can act “as the crown”, impose any decisions they like on the rest of us and nothing can stop them.
    If you don’t understand this, you need to educate yourself.

    All counties other than NZ, The UK and Israel have a written constitution and the American one is probably the best known.
    A Liberal Democratic Constitution is a real document that has more authority than anyone or group of people in a nation.

    Such a constitution states the equal rights of every citizen and protects them from being violated by other people, other organizations, people called the state or the judiciary.

    The Constitution becomes Omnipotent and prevents selfish busybodies from thinking they are omnipotent.

    The equal rights stated in a constitution are INALIENABLE.
    That means that the people who call themselves the state cannot mess with them as they can and do in New Zealand.
    They cannot grant unequal rights, privileges or unfair advantages to any individuals or groups of people because the constitution forbids it.
    If they try to do that, the people can refer to the constitution to stop it.

    In New Zealand, the people called the state can “act as the crown” to ignore our equal natural rights any time they want to and we have to “suck it up”.
    Perhaps that is why these “authorities” have always refused to allow us to have a Liberal Democratic Constitution that prevents them from messing with us?

    The truth is that the people of New Zealand do not have, never did have and probably never will have RIGHTS.
    We are allowed to have PRIVILEGES that we think of as rights but they can be taken from us whenever the political elites decide to “act as the crown”.

    We are told that a NZ constitution would have to be based on the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi that no-one understands or agrees with.
    Utter Rubbish.
    The closest we got to a Constitution (the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852) does not even mention that silly little document. Zilch, zip, nada, niet, no mention of the precious treaty because it was already irrelevant and out of date in 1852.

    A democratic constitution is determined by the will of the the significant majority of the people (75% might be a good suggestion) and can only be amended if that majority agrees.

    The people of New Zealand cannot even have a referendum unless the people who call themselves the state have already decided the outcome. No citizens initiated referendum has ever been accepted by the people that call themselves the state. Not one. Not ever. Not likely. Not allowed. Forget even trying.

    The acceptance of a God (higher than the crown) might have prevented the people that call themselves the state from being too corrupted by their authority and power but they managed to get over it and install Atheism as our official religion.
    “There you go God, suck on that”.

    God defend New Zealand? I laugh very time I hear that because God was sacked and might be glad to be rid of us.

    Forget about God, or a Democratic Constitution or Democracy itself because the people that call themselves the state have a Crown and have decided that we are all too childish and stupid to be allowed Equal Natural Rights.

    If one or two subjects of this crown are interested they can also look up Natural Rights and Natural Law and wonder why they never heard of them before.

    No worries maties (Harrrr), She’ll be right as soon as we “decolonize” and go back to the good old days of Tribalism before there were such things as the ENLIGHTENMENT, NATURAL LAW, NATURAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND CONSTITUTIONS.

    Just polish up your martial arts and you will do very well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 80 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here