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Draft Constitution for the 21st Century


Announcing the publication of a Draft Constitution for the 21st Century

Drafted at the EmpowerNZ Workshop 28-29 August

The McGuinness Institute is pleased to announce the publication of a Draft Constitution for New Zealand, produced by 50 talented young people at Parliament on 28 and 29 August 2012. The event, EmpowerNZ: Drafting a Constitution for the 21st Century brought together young New Zealanders from a wide range of backgrounds to work hard to produce a draft constitution. This constitution is now available on the EmpowerNZ website. Additionally, an interactive web version of the Draft Constitution has been launched today. This has been created by one of the workshop participants as his way of ‘paying it forward’ for the ten hours he committed to when he agreed to become a participant of EmpowerNZ.

The workshop was an initiative of the McGuinness Institute – a non-partisan think tank based in Wellington – that aimed to take advantage of the rare opportunity afforded by the current constitutional review for New Zealanders to have a say in the future of their country’s constitution. Chief Executive of the McGuinness Institute, Wendy McGuinness says ‘Working alongside a team of talented young designers, the participants were able to create a bold yet in some ways traditional document that captures some of the deep and complex discussion that took place. The Draft Constitution is both traditional and bold, holding on to the institutions and conventions that have served this country so well, while incorporating new elements that reflect the future they want for New Zealand.’

‘From constitutional scholars to current and former Members of Parliament, everyone involved was very impressed by the passion, energy and commitment of the young people who put this Draft Constitution together.’

‘One of the key lessons from this exercise is that young people want to be part of the conversation; that they want the constitution to have a greater public profile (not just sitting in a Cabinet Manual) and they want a constitution that speaks from a New Zealand perspective – one that reflects more how they feel and one that speaks to the People. The imagery on the front cover represents a window, reflecting the desire to see how power is distributed within the inner engine room of Parliament. There was no desire to remove power from government or make it more rigid, rather a significant desire for greater transparency and public engagement.’

In many ways the resulting Draft Constitution is both bold and traditional:

• The participants want New Zealand to become a republic whilst also wanting to acknowledge a connection to the United Kingdom; • They want to rename the Prime Minister Tumuaki and create a new Head of State called Kaitiaki, whilst also wanting the Kaitiaki to be given similar powers as currently exercised by the Governor-General; and • They elected to uphold the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty whilst also wanting more checks and balances through instruments such as the establishment of an independent Constitutional Commission, reviews of the constitution every twenty years and to give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Examples where they were bold include the Declaration of Independence 1835 being treated as the first official document that affirmed Māori sovereignty and the entrenchment of the Organs of Government and Voice of the People (see Parts 3 and 4, and clause 5.3).Participants presented their Draft Constitution to members of the Constitutional Advisory Panel, MPs, Ambassadors and other invited guests at Parliament, and elaborated on the thinking and process behind its main components, on the night of 29 August 2012.

Footage of the final presentation is now available online and videos of the speakers who spoke at the event will be made available over the coming weeks. The speakers included: our host Paul Goldsmith MP, Emeritus Professor John Burrows, Charles Chauvel MP, Hon Peter Dunne MP, Te Ururoa Flavell MP, Hone Harawira MP, Professor Philip Joseph, Hon Jim McLay, Sir Tipene O’Regan, Metiria Turei MP, and Dame Dr Claudia Orange from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, with whom the workshop was developed.


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