More than 100 people turned out at Russell McVeagh’s Auckland offices for the Auckland launch of A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand on Wednesday October 5.
The event was officially hosted by The New Zealand Initiative. NZ Initiative executive director, Oliver Hartwich, spoke about the proposals in the book. The main themes of his address were that:
- views on the value of a written, codified constitution can be quite personal and should be debated openly
- there is real value, in his personal view, in exploring the idea of a written, codified constitution
- if New Zealand were to adopt a written constitution, core, shared constitutional values need to be given prominence, with the machinery of government occupying a secondary role within the constitution.
His point was that the function of the State is to exercise power in pursuit of the core values, not the other way round. In making his point, he drew interesting parallels from German constitutional history, noting that the pre-WWII Weimar Constitution focused primarily on the institutions of government and their relationship, whereas post-war, the German Basic Law of 1949 put human rights and human dignity at the forefront. We should do the same in the next version of our constitution was his suggestion.
Andrew gave a speech of thanks and reply. Geoffrey rounded out the formal part of the evening with a short précis of the proposals set out in our book, and the public engagement exercise that we have been engaging in.
The audience reflected the diverse range of interest in our proposal, with people from leading New Zealand businesses, academics and students from the University of Auckland and AUT, members of the legal profession, as well as Niamh McMahon, Honorary Consul of Ireland to New Zealand.
Many thanks to David Clark, board member of the New Zealand Law Foundation, for acting as MC for the event.