Over the next six months (from 25 February 2013) there will be a consultation process on New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. The process is led by a Government-appointed constitutional advisory panel which will hold public meetings between February and July, before considering public submissions. The panel will report to the Government by the end of the year on whether there is any consensus and on areas it thinks require more work.
Included in the panel’s term of reference is “to stimulate public debate and awareness of constitutional issues by providing information about New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements”. The feedback from the panel will provide “an understanding of New Zealanders’ perspectives on this country’s constitutional arrangements, topical issues and areas where reform is considered desirable”.
There are wide-ranging issues up for discussion including whether the Treaty of Waitangi should be entrenched in law, how many seats there should be in Parliament, the length of Parliamentary terms, whether or not there needs to be a written constitution, and whether or not all laws have to be consistent with the Bill of Rights Act.
Of particular interest to BPW NZ members is the issue of whether the Bill of Rights Act (1990) should be made higher law and thus enable the courts to invalidate laws that are inconsistent with it. Careful scrutiny and feedback on this is important given the goal of BPW International to advocate for the elimination of all discrimination against women and to advocate for human rights and the use of gender-sensitive perspectives.
“The Constitution Conversation “ website is http://www.ourconstitution.org.nz . The deadline for submissions is 1 July 2013 and information about how to make a submission to the review is available at http://www.ourconstitution.org.nz/How-to-make-a-Submission . Through the website it is also possible to access facilitator’s guides to set up local meetings on the issues.