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

Latest news

Waitangi: protest mixes with growing engagement
ABC News

27 Jan – On Waitangi Day, tension and dramatic protests mix with high levels of personal engagement between Maori leaders and government, writes historian Michael Belgrave.


Kiwis perceive high political trust but low influence
Statistics New Zealand

26 Jan – Thirty-seven percent of New Zealanders believe the public have little influence on government decisions, according to a Statistics NZ survey. The survey also found that almost 30 percent have little trust in Parliament and 32 percent have little understanding of how the Government makes decisions. Detailed results here.


Trust in political system lowest among Maori
NZ Herald

26 Jan – Thirty per cent of the New Zealand population rated their trust in Parliament as high, and a further 9 per cent rated their trust very high, according to Statistics New Zealand. But almost half of Māori (48 per cent) said they had low trust in Parliament.

Parliament’s elitist lustre fading, says Chris Trotter

23 Jan – Having a prime minister who is also a mother is one further step in making Parliament more representative of the rest of New Zealand, says political commentator Chris Trotter.

Misinformation on social media harms democracy: Facebook
NZ Herald

23 Jan – Facebook has acknowledged that its network was used for foreign meddling in the 2016 US election, and has vowed to ensure that it becomes ‘a source for democratic good’.

Inequality bad for democracy: Oxfam
NZ Herald

22 Jan – Extreme inequality fractures society and marginalises the poor, which is bad for democracy, Oxfam said as it released data showing 1 percent of New Zealanders owning 28 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Monarch or republic? The debate rolls on

14 Jan – While the younger generation of royals rises high in the publicity stakes, debate bubbles on over whether New Zealand should continue to be a constitutional monarchy, writes Anthony Hubbard.


UN launches campaign on Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN news centre

10 Dec –The United Nations is kicking off a year-long campaign to honour the foundational human rights document, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.


Dunne urges NZ to become a republic

6 Dec –Former United Future leader Peter Dunne has challenged the millennial generation in Parliament to “seize the moment” and begin a process to turn New Zealand into a republic.


Open up the Closed Government Act

27 Nov – Political scientist Bryce Edwards calls on public servants, academics and journalists to form a coalition to fix the Official Information Act.


Will the new government embrace transparency – or run from it?

27 Nov – Political scientist Bryce Edwards expresses hope that the Government will live up to its promises on transparency, and will reform the Official Information Act.


Xero chief tech officer backs written constitution

16 Nov – Xero chief technology officer Craig Walker says it’s ‘time for New Zealand to have a true constitution’


No to elections: maybe we should only have them every four years?

19 Oct – Was the election bad for business? Kirk Hope of BusinessNZ asks whether a longer cycle between voting would be better for all of us.


Unquiet Time: Aotearoa New Zealand in a Fast Changing World – a review

8 Oct – Colin James’s seventh book has the difficult the hard task of making sense of the accelerating pace of change and uncertainty around the globe and charting New Zealand’s place in it, writes Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Former PMs call for more history and civics in schools

12 Sept – Former prime ministers Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Jim Bolger are urging schools to teach more New Zealand history and civics, with Mr Bolger warning that ignorance of the past is behind the rise of racism.



Never give in to election fatigue

11 Sept – Social media expert Anna Connell writes about the launch of The Ninth Floor and the impact of new media on New Zealand’s democracy.


Gisborne student makes case for civics education
Gisborne Herald

9 Sept – Gisborne law student Samantha Wood is taking her campaign for civics education directly to politicians, and to schools. You can discover more about Samantha’s campaign on her website



Row over gangs and human rights is an argument for a written constitution

8 Sept – During the election campaign the National Party took aim at gangs, prompting a debate around human rights. It all underlines how New Zealand would benefit from a written constitution, argues constitutional lawyer Andrew Butler.


Row over gangs’ human rights is an argument for a written constitution

8 Sept – Debate about human rights for gang members underlines the weakness of New Zealand’s human rights laws – in particular their lack of enforceability. That is a concern for all New Zealanders,  argues Dr Andrew Butler.


An inside view of the politicisation of the public service

8 Sept – Former finance journalist Simon Louisson writes of his shock at the culture of self-censorship he encountered during a brief stint in communications for a state agency.


Four former PMs talk politics at launch of The Ninth Floor

8 Sept – Four former NZ Prime Ministers appeared together in Wellington tonight for the book launch of The 9th Floor, based on the RNZ podcast series.

Geoffrey Palmer, Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark were at the event, along with RNZ’s Tim Watkin and Guyon Espiner, at Te Papa tonight.

Did the former prime ministers miss the cut and thrust of an election campaign? And just how much power does our country’s leader have?

Find out with RNZ’s live video from the event …













Do former prime ministers Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Jim Bolger, Dame Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark miss the cut and thrust of an election campaign?Join the four former PMs and RNZ’s Tim Watkin and Guyon Espiner, creators of the acclaimed 9th Floor podcast and now a book (with Bridget Williams Books – BWB), at Te Papa to discuss just how much power our country’s leader has.

Posted by RNZ on Thursday, September 7, 2017









Human rights are for all, including gang members

5 September – Paula Bennett’s declaration that some people “have fewer human rights than others” was an attempt to beat the law-and-order drum for electoral purposes, says this Christchurch Press editorial.



Lawyers condemn Paula Bennett’s ‘fewer human rights’ comment

4 September – Paula Bennett’s comments that some New Zealanders have “fewer human rights” than others has been condemned by the NZ Bar Association..



Mask off: government decides gang members have fewer human rights

3 September – National’s new policy giving police powers to search gang members’ houses at any time to check for weapons shows them returning to their base with a vengeance, writes The Spinoff editor Duncan Greive.



Launch of Colin James’ book Unquiet Time

24 August – Colin James’ new book Unquiet Time describes a New Zealand ‘bobbing around like a cork on a rough global sea’ facing multiple challenges from climate change, new technology, biosecurity and pandemic threats, and other global trends, says former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer.



Constitution not to blame in Barnaby Joyce  affair

24 August – The Barnaby Joyce citizenship affair is not a reason for opposing a written constitution: Palmer


Former PM ‘concerned’ over departure of Auditor General

9 August – Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is concerned the parliamentary select committee tasked with investigating the former Auditor-General Martin Matthews failed to go through the appropriate constitutional process.


Auditor General report needs better explanation: Palmer

9 August – Pressure is mounting on Parliament’s Speaker to explain why a report on the behaviour of the former auditor-general Martin Matthews won’t be publicly released.



Free and frank advice fast disappearing

8 August – Public servants are increasingly under pressure to please their political masters and less likely to give free and frank advice, says Dr Chris Eichbaum.


Falling home ownership creates democratic ‘doom loop’

3 August – Falling home ownership rates are helping to drive election turnout rates down among the young, while older voters continue to vote for policies that drive house prices even further out of reach, says Bernard Hickey.


Breaking down barriers for women in politics

3 August –If we want Parliament to be a truly legitimate institution, we must focus on increasing women’s representation, writes Hilde Coffé.


The puzzle of political disengagement

2 August –Wellington Central candidates from five parties were all agreed on one thing when they addressed Victoria University students: more people are tuning out from politics, leaving our democracy in need of strengthening. Shane Cowlishaw reports.


The purpose of a constitution is to limit power

27 July – If a constitution limits government power, that’s not a bad thing, says Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


Looking for leaders in the wrong places
Sunday Star-Times

23 July – Does it make sense for NZ’s head of state to be appointed by accident of birth, asks David Slack.


Some councils using code to quash dissent

20 July –New Zealand’s reputation as a beacon of open democracy and free media is getting tarnished, and this may get worse, thanks in part to local councils, Cathy Strong writes.


Democracy is in decline, so what can we do?

10 July – Political discontentment is increasing in New Zealand as government becomes increasingly disconnected from the people. Sir Geoffrey Palmer asks: what can be done?


Land swap law would be ‘constitutional outrage’: Palmer

7 July – Any government attempt to retrospectively reverse the Supreme Court’s Ruataniwha irrigation project decision would be deeply offensive to the rule of law and a constitutional outrage, says Sir Geoffrey Palmer.


The election of our discontent
National Business Review

4 July – With political polls showing that all is not well with the New Zealand political system and society, we might be as insulated from the worldwide increase in radical politics as we think, says political scientist Bryce Edwards.


NZ’s first Constitution Act passed 165 years ago

30 June – Today marks the 165th anniversary of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established New Zealand’s Parliament. It is one of the longest continuously-operating parliaments in the world.


Sir Geoffrey Palmer rips into Horizons
Manawatu Standard

23 June – Legal luminary Sir Geoffrey Palmer has delivered a blistering attack on Horizons Regional Council’s handling of intensive agriculture consenting.


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.


Young Kiwis more engaged as citizens than we think
The Spinoff

22 May – Calls for more civics education in New Zealand schools have become a clamour in recent times, but young New Zealanders are more engaged than we think, and more education might make little difference, argues Bronwyn Wood.


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.


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.


Row over gangs and human rights is an argument for a written constitution

8 Sept – During the election campaign the National Party took aim at gangs, prompting a debate around human rights. It all underlines how New Zealand would benefit from a written constitution, argues constitutional lawyer Andrew Butler.


Democracy is in decline, so what can we do?

10 July – Political discontentment is increasing in New Zealand as government becomes increasingly disconnected from the people. Sir Geoffrey Palmer asks: what can be done?

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.