Why change the Constitution?

It's hard to find

New Zealand has a constitution, but it's not written in one place. It can be found in 45 different Acts of Parliement, as well as treaties, common law, conventions, and various other documents.

Some parts of New Zealand's constitution are clear and legally enforceable; others are not.

The constitution is the foundation of law and politics in any country. It should be easy to find, so that people know the basic rules by which they are governed and public power is regulated.

Shouldn't all human rights and rules of government be written down in one place?

It's easy to ignore

In most countries, the constitution is superior law. Parliament and the Government can't ignore constitutional rules or human rights.

In New Zealand, Parliament can make laws that alter or set aside constitutional rules and rights whenever it likes.

For most rules, only 51% of MPs have to agree. There is no requirement for Parliament to consult – it can rush changes through under urgency. Neither judges nor anyone else can challenge Parliament's supremacy.

Shouldn't fundamental rules and rights have better protection?

It's out of step

New Zealand is very different now than in the past. It's much more diverse, ethnically and culturally.

This makes it all the more important that we have clear principles and rules – so everyone can understand how we are governed and what their rights are.

Our constitution should contain a vision about New Zealand as a nation; its identity, aspirations of its people, their rights and obligations. We need one document to which people can go and examine the rules for government, the principles upon which government shall be conducted and the rights that people enjoy.

What should we change to?


New Zealand’s Constitution is contained in 45 separate Acts of Parliament, as well as treaties, conventions, common law, and various other documents. This is a recipe for confusion and uncertainty.

New Zealand’s rules of government should be written in one place, so people can easily find them, and understand how the country is governed, how and why decisions are made, and what their rights are.

New Zealand’s Head of State should be a New Zealander living in New Zealand. And the country should become a republic within the Commonwealth. This would enhance the country’s identity as an independent nation.

We propose that the Head of State be called the ‘Kaitiaki’ or ‘Guardian’ of the nation, should be appointed through a free vote of Parliament, and should be given some powers to protect the Constitution.

We propose that Parliament should vote on international treaties, and on proposals to send armed forces into conflict. Currently, the Government makes these decisions.

Our proposed Constitution increases openness and transparency, strengthens checks and balances on state power, and safeguards the political independence of the public service.

Read our proposals

Chapter 2 of Towards Democratic Renewal which sets out our vision for New Zealand's Constitution. You can read the chapter in full here, and also read the full text of the proposed constitution.



Democratic renewal

Reforming the Constitution would be a significant step towards renewing and strengthening Aotearoa New Zealand's democracy.

But constitutional reform, on its own, is not enough.

The Constitution sets out the rights of people, and the powers of government institutions. It also matters how those institutions are run, how they communicate, and how they make decisions.

A healthy democracy requires an open and inclusive approach to lawmaking and government.

The government machine must face outwards to citizens, not look inwards.

It must be open and transparent, and find ways to connect with citizens all the time, not just at elections.

And it must serve the common good, not favour particular interests, especially those of the most wealthy and powerful.

A Constitution is a road-map to how the country operates. The people and the Constitution must be in harmony with one another.

It is vital that New Zealanders have trust in their institutions, that government engages with the people and that democratic legitimacy is renewed and refreshed.


Read the 2016 proposals

The full text of the original 2016 Constitution Aotearoa NZ proposals – along with videos, articles and blogs by Geoffrey Palmer, Andrew Butler, and guest contributors – are available on the website archive.constitutionaotearoa.nz.