Discuss the Constitutional Law New Zealand.


This question is about the NEW ZEALAND LAW JURISDICTION

FACT SCENARIO You are an intern working for a (fictional) new political party, the Aotearoa Reform Party (ARP) which intends to put forward a number of candidates at the forthcoming New Zealand general election on 19 September. ARP’s most prominent member, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist Grantham Morrigan, will be contesting the Ōhariu electorate seat in Wellington. Mr Morrigan is polling reasonable well against the incumbent Labour MP Greg O’Connor. He is hoping to win the Ōhariu seat which might allow ARP to bring in more MPs, even if the ARP party vote is beneath the 5% threshold. Mr Morrigan and the ARP board are preparing for their inaugural party conference to be held in early July at which they will launch their policy platform for the election. A key issue (and Mr Morrigan’s main reason for launching and funding ARP) is constitutional reform. At a February 2020 press conference, Mr Morrigan said that “New Zealand desperately needs a written constitution” but did not elaborate further. The details of ARP’s policy and proposals for constitutional reform (alongside its other policies) will be finalised at a (closed) board meeting on 3 May. Mr Morrigan has asked you – the only ARP intern with a legal background – for help in drafting a board paper dealing with the constitutional reform aspects of the proposed party policy. His instructions to you state “I need a memorandum containing clear, informed analysis on the issues noted below which can include identifying different options and comparative legal and other advantages and disadvantages of each. Your advice should be balanced and supported by relevant academic or judicial authority. I’m interested in your informed opinions, but ultimately, the ARP board will make the final strategy decisions.”

Mr Morrigan is aware that there are many different topics that might be addressed in a new constitution for New Zealand. They might include – as examples only – protection of private property rights, environmental rights, or restrictions on electoral financing. Mr Morrigan is keen for his own thinking to be challenged, and so has asked you to identify and discuss an issue of your own choice other than the two topics noted above. Your task: topic 3: With reference to relevant commentary and caselaw (if any), explain: i. What specific issue you consider should be included in the new constitution; ii. How the issue might be addressed; and iii. Why you think it is important to have this issue covered in the document.


A number of students have been in touch asking for guidance on how to select a topic for the third part of the assignment. I’d like to provide some guidelines for you all.

1. Do not discuss voting age
The written assignment for Constitutional Law in 2019 involved a discussion on voting age. Some of you in this year’s paper are repeating the paper from 2019. Others will have access to work prepared by students, or guidance given by Leonid on how the issue of voting age may have been addressed. I don’t want students this year recycling work from previous years, and I also don’t want you to be tempted to use material that you may have accessed from past students on the issue. The cleanest way of handling this would be to take the issue of voting age completely off the table for the 2020 assignment. So no discussions on voting age.

2. The issue should be clearly constitutional
Some of the ideas run past me by students have involved questions of law, but not obviously constitutional law. As Palmer has put it, “A constitution is the system or body of fundamental principles under which a nation is constituted or governed; it sets up the framework for government itself. It is a set of rules — structures and procedures. It is so important because it seeks to limit what has historically been the most coercive power exercised in a society — the power of government, which controls the military and police.… The great problem of constitutional design in a democracy is to create a set of rules that lead those exercising the huge power of government not to abuse at.”

So a large part of the Constitution concerns the powers, limits and interaction of the three main arms of government: the executive, legislature and judiciary. Constitutions also addressed issues of fundamental rights – covered in New Zealand by the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993.

Please keep these observations in mind when you are selecting your topic for discussion.

3. Where can you get ideas for topics?
The obvious place to look for ideas would be in books or publications by authors who have developed proposals for a new constitution for New Zealand. For example, the Palmer and Butler book A Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand (full text available online through Talis), the follow-up Palmer and Butler Towards democratic renewal: ideas for constitutional change in New Zealand, and the 2013 report by the Constitutional Advisory Panel A Report on a Conversation.



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