In November 2013 the Constitutional Advisory Panel delivered its report to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Māori Affairs. The Ministers then submitted a final report to Cabinet. The Report is therefore with the New Zealand Government and it is the practice that the Government provides a response to the report within 6 months; this ought to have occurred during 2014, even with the delay around the General Election.
The Constitutional Advisory Panel’s work on the “constitutional conversation” engaged a significant number of New Zealanders: Panel members attended many meetings, and received and considered 5,529 submissions.
The Report contained a number of recommendations; the key submission being that the Government actively support a continuing conversation about the constitution by ensuring people can find out more about the current arrangements and options for our future.
The recommendation with regards the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act was that the Government set up a process with public consultation and participation to explore in more detail the options for amending the Act to improve its effectiveness.
On 5 January 2015 New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties wrote to the Prime Minster, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney-General asking when the Government would provide a response to the Constitutional Advisory Panel’s report and what plans have been made to progress the consideration of constitutional issues.
The answer we received from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office in May 2015 was:
The Government is considering the Panel's report. If the Government decides to undertake further work, or propose constitutional change, there will be more opportunities for New Zealanders to have their say.
New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties considers that given the importance of our constitutional arrangements, the resources and effort put in around the constitutional conversation, the clear wide public interest in the issues, and the contribution that civics and citizenship education could make to social engagement across the spectrum of society, it is unacceptable that the Government dismisses the Report in this way.
The Council will continue to look for opportunities to put New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements into public forums for considered discussion.