Media releases, reviews, columns and other news about New Zealand’s democracy and constitution


Latest news

Palmer slams Horizons over way consents processed
New Zealand Herald

23 June –The key architect of the Resource Management Act, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, has slammed Horizons’ handling of intensive agriculture consenting as bordering on misfeasance.


Truth, lies, and democracy

22 June – This week’s events surrounding Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay raise questions about the prevailing culture within New Zealand politics, writes political scientist Bronwyn Hayward.


Is democracy under threat?
National Business Review

20 June – Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s assertion that democracy is under threat from politicians who hide information and keep decision-making power away from the public, writes political scientist Bryce Roberts.


Let’s make government more democratic

20 June – How democratic is New Zealand’s political culture? With an upcoming general election, it’s a good time to reflect on how we can make politics more transparent, accountable, and useful for the public, writes political scientist Bryce Edwards.


Legislation Bill introduced

20 June – Parliament has begun consider the Legislation Bill, which provides for improved public access to secondary legislation and to information about the government’s legislative proposals.


Research probes NZ’s record on transparency in government
Victoria University of Wellington

19 June –A new report from Victoria University of Wellington questions New Zealand’s long-standing international reputation for integrity and openness, and puts forward ideas to make government more open.

See the report Bridges Both Ways: Transforming the openness of New Zealand government here.

Election survey shows widespread discontent
Massey University

15 June – More than two-thirds of New Zealanders think the country’s political system is either ‘completely broken’ or ‘working but needs to change’, according to a Massey University survey.


British election has shown how to get young out to vote
Massey University

15 June – Voters are significantly wealthier, older, more educated, and more likely to be white than eligible non-voters, writes Massey University’s Claire Robinson, but the British election has shown that the young will turn out to vote if they can find good reason to.


Not green enough: Local Government, the Resource Management Act and the environment
Local Government magazine

15 June – Geoffrey Palmer says the performance of local government in relation to the environment seems to be seriously deficient.


Watchdog urges government to follow Official Information Act
National Radio

14 June – The Ombudsman is seeking assurances that ministers aren’t flouting the law when dealing with requests for official information.


Transport Minister tries to block Official Information Act request
National Radio

7 June –Transport Minister Simon Bridges has been caught trying to block an official information request for details about a proposed new $50 million Auckland railway line.


A trend that might change the constitution

6 June – Political commentator Colin James runs his eye over a range of constitutional developments.


At Her Majesty’s pleasure
Sunday Star Times

4 June – Sunday Star Times columnist Grant Smithies contemplates the free speech implications of Nelson City Council’s proposal to limit rights to political protest.


Transparency, governance, and the constitution’s role supporting the OIA
Transparency International

1 June – Transparency International discusses Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s proposal to strengthen constitutional requirements for open government.


Outdated and increasingly toothless, the Official Information Act needs an overhaul

30 May – Government attitudes to official information are hampering democratic debate and accountability, writes Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Voting is important, but is it more important than civil rights?

29 May – Voting matters, but would you choose it over the right to possess property, the right to freedom of movement, and the right not to be compelled into slavery, asks lawyer Liam Hehir.


Proposed bylaw may breach Bill of Rights Act
Nelson Mail

27 May – Former prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer has called on the Nelson City Council to withdraw a draft bylaw that would require a permit to protest, saying it threatens “the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders”.


Tackling political distrust in election year

27 May – The nature of democracy is shifting but no-one knows how, says Massey University’s Grant Duncan.


Geoffrey Palmer calls for Official Information Act to be rewritten

25 May –Sir Geoffrey Palmer says the Official Information Act is showing signs of its age and it is in “serious need of refreshment”.


Voter silence destroys democracy

24 May – Declining voter turnout is an indicator that something is wrong with our democracy, writes Massey University Professor of Politics Richard Shaw.


Has the post-US TPP already been okayed by Parliament? No, it hasn’t
The Spinoff

23 May – Prime Minister Bill English’s view that the latest incarnation of the Trans Pacific Partnership needs no Parliamentary examination is ‘constitutionally wrong’, says lawyer Andrew Geddis.


The unaccountability of elites
National Business Review

23 May – Mistakes by those in authority can lead to disasters and misfortunes, yet there is often a worrying lack of consequences or accountability for the authorities involved, writes political scientist Bryce Edwards.


How governments keep the lid on ineptitude

19 May – The government’s media gags on government-funded organisations are overriding the public’s right to know, says journalist Jim Tucker.


Accountability the price of keeping the system honest

19 May – Accountability is frequently talked about but rarely practised in New Zealand politics, writes Karl du Fresne.


NZ democracy and its discontent
National Business Review

19 May – In the lead-up to this year’s election there are plenty of signs of discontent with the state of NZ’s democracy, and some colourful debate, says political scientist Bryce Edwards.


More direct democracy better than compulsory voting

12 May – Voting is only one aspect of a healthy democracy. New Zealand needs need ways for citizens to play a more active role in shaping the laws and policies they are subject to, political scientists Emily Beausoleil and Max Rashbrooke.


Democracy means more than having a vote every 3 years

10 May – The public should have a say in political decision-making all of the time, not just between elections, argues Dr Nicholas Ross Smith.


US Professor Neil Siegel discusses constitutional law
NZ Law Society

10 May – Professor Neil Siegel of Duke Law School, who is visiting New Zealand to give the 2017 Borrin lecture at Victoria university on constitutional law and norms in the current US political climate. Here, he speaks with Justice David Collins of the High Court and Cate Honoré Brett of the NZ Law Society.


Information overload: we’re all mushrooms now

9 May – Kept in the dark and fed misinformation, it’s difficult even for engaged citizens to make sense of NZ’s public and political life, writes Graham Adams.


Govt accused of ‘sneaky attack’ on environment
NZ Herald

9 May – New freshwater policy puts economic development before environmental values, according to legal advice from Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Trump’s disdain for constitutional norms not just bad policy

9 May – Trump’s flouting of constitutional checks and balances is the most worrying aspect of his troubled presidency, writes Duke University Professor of Law Neil Siegel.


Treaty inexorably becoming part of NZ’s constitution

7 May – Te Tiriti o Waitangi is slowly but surely becoming part of New Zealand’s constitution, says journalist Andrew Robb.


Lack of constitution leaves politics ‘directionless’

5 May – The lack of a written constitution means New Zealand has no shared starting point for discussions about values-based politics, says legal scholar Max Harris.


PM’s job description ‘not written down’: Helen Clark
Radio New Zealand

5 May – The lack of a written constitution means the prime minister’s powers are unwritten and unclear, says former PM Helen Clark.


Sustaining democracy can be difficult, says Don McKinnon
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

4 May – Establishing a democracy is easy but sustaining it through difficult times is a challenge, says former Commonwealth Secretary General Sir Don McKinnon ONZ.


Media merger declined over threat to democracy
Asia Pacific Bulletin

3 May – The Commerce Commission denied the proposed merger of media businesses NZME and Fairfax because the merger would be ‘harmful to democracy’.


What election? Who’s seen the politicians?

3 May – The real election issues are starved of attention because of once-over-sound-bite-politics-are-so-uncool magazine-style media coverage, says TV critic Jane Bowron.


A Judge’s view of the rule of law

3 May – Chief Justice Sian Elias discusses the tension between the rule of law and the sovereignty of Parliament. Also see this speech by Lord Judge, former Chief Justice of the United Kingdom.


Press freedom stifled by cynical use of OIA Judge’s view of the rule of law

2 May – New Zealand drops eight places in Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom report, with the Government’s misuse of the Official Information Act obstructing journalists and proposed new laws gagging whistleblowers.


Voting under attack as election approaches

27 April – Democracy can work, but only if people work at it – by turning out to vote – argues political scientist Jack Vowles.


How to drive voting and policy debate this election… and how not to

25 April – It would be great to see debate about issues at this year’s election, instead of superficiality and sensationalism, says former National MP Wyatt Creech.


Former PM Mike Moore calls for compulsory voting

8 April – Former PM Mike Moore supports call for compulsory voting.


Democracy ‘in crisis’: Palmer calls for compulsory voting
NZ Herald

7 April – New Zealand should follow Australia’s lead and make voting compulsory, says former PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Palmer calls for compulsory voting, says democracy ‘in crisis’

7 April 2017 – New Zealand should adopt Australian rules and make it illegal not to vote, former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer says.


The reformer – Geoffrey Palmer as PM
Radio New Zealand

7 April – Former PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer reflects on his time in office.


Free speech under threat in NZ universities

4 April 2017 –A group of 27 high-profile New Zealanders has penned an open letter warning freedom of speech is under threat in the country’s universities.


What a constitution would mean for the NZ public service

April 2017 – Miriam Bookman of the law firm Russell McVeagh reviews our proposals and considers the implications for New Zealand’s public service – including its independence and ability to give free and frank advice.


John Key’s blogger ties remain in the dark
Newstalk NZ

26 March – New Zealanders won’t get true transparency from the Official Information Act so long as Ministers can pretend they were acting in their party political capacity, says Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick.


NZ should raise the bar on corruption
NZ Herald

5 March – New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements lack the checks and balances of other democratic countries, says former Parliamentary staffer Grant McLachlan.


NZ Constitution is an excellent idea

5 March 2017 – NZers’ security and personal freedoms are not adequately protected and could be removed by Government at any time, writes Tom O’Connor of


Constitution essential if New Zealand is to avoid Trump-style fallout

2 March 2017 – Without clear rules of government, fundamental rights have little protection against political whim, Sir Geoffrey Palmer argues in a public meeting in Hamilton.


Trump shows we need a proper constitution
NZ Herald

2 March 2017 – The United States’ experience under Donald Trump brings into sharp focus the question of how New Zealand safeguards its democracy and hard-won rights and freedoms, writes constitutional lawyer Susanne Ruthven.


Cross-examination: A Constitution for Aotearoa NZ

Jade du Preez of the Equal Justice Project blogs on our proposed Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand, including the role of the Treaty and the response of the business lobby.


People don’t care about a NZ constitution? That’s not what we’re finding…

6 March 2017 – While some may believe New Zealanders don’t care about their constitutional arrangements, feedback about A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand proves that wrong, writes Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


US turmoil under Trump shows need for constitutional checks

20 February – The turmoil being witnessed in America at least illustrates the necessity of constitutional checks. It should spur New Zealand to adopt its own written, codified constitution, writes former prime minister Geoffrey Palmer.


Law Society recommends changes to Parliament’s rules
Media release

16 Feb – The New Zealand Law Society recommends that Parliament consider changes to its procedures and rules to ensure better public engagement and to enhance the quality of proposed legislation.


Opportunities Party supports written constitution
Media release

13 Feb –  The Opportunities Party has released its ‘Democracy Reset’ policy, recommending a written constitution and an upper house among other measures to restore participation and confidence in NZ’s democracy.


Greens co-leader supports written constitution
Media release

7 Feb – Greens co-leader James Shaw has called for New Zealand to adopt a written constitution ‘to make the Government fulfil its responsibilities on climate change, human rights and a host of other things’.


Greens co-leader supports written constitution
Media release

7 Feb – Greens co-leader James Shaw has called for New Zealand to adopt a written constitution ‘to make the Government fulfil its responsibilities on climate change, human rights and a host of other things’.


Sir Taihakurei Durie on the Treaty in NZ’s constitution
E Tangata

5 Feb – The Treaty of Waitangi and tikanga Māori are partially recognised in New Zealand law, but there’s still more work to be done, says New Zealand Māori Council chair and former High Court judge and Waitangi Tribunal chair Sir Taihakurei Durie.


Executive power linked to declining voter turnout
Radio New Zealand

16 Jan – The government’s power to control public debate is a significant factor in declining voter turnout, according to a group of Victoria University academics.


Is democracy under threat?
National Business Review

20 June – Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s assertion that democracy is under threat from politicians who hide information and keep decision-making power away from the public, writes political scientist Bryce Roberts.

7 April 2017 – In this landmark interview with Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner, Sir Geoffrey Palmer discusses his time as prime minister and explains why New Zealand needed to change when the fourth Labour government was elected in the 1980s.

The case for a new constitution

25 September 2016 – Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dr Andrew Butler discuss how New Zealand would benefit from a written, codified constitution.

2 March 2017 – Without clear rules of government, fundamental rights have little protection.