Preamble: The New Zealand Government established a Constitutional Advisory Panel. One roles Panel foster a "conversation? New Zealand's Constitutional Arrangements, report back Government views New Zealand community.
New Zealand, much like its comrade, The United Kingdom, is constitutionally flexible. This is to say that neither Britain, nor New Zealand is regarded as having a constitution in the form of a single document. The latter's 'unwritten' constitution consists of a set of fundamental laws adopted ever since the second half of the nineteenth century on. However, one particular document is nowadays regarded as officially representative for New Zealand and that is the Constitution Act, passed by the UK Parliament in 1852. It was succeeded decades later by the Constitution Act 1986 which, this time, was passed by the New Zealand Parliament. The Treaty of Waitangi is also considered a main source of the New Zealand Constitution. As such, this paper will address the major written documents regarded as part of the country's constitution, as well as some unwritten conventions included. Also, we will specifically address the Treaty of Waitangi in connection with New Zealand's Constitution, with an emphasis on its role and the either relevance or irrelevance that it possesses in present times.
M-ori people arrived in New Zealand in approximately 800 AD. By the late 1830s, there were approximately 125.000 of them in the region and some 2000 settlers, with more on the way constantly. In 1840, a convention was established between the M-ori chieftains and the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Waitangi ceded sovereignty to the queen of UK while it preserved territorial rights for the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. More specifically, what this agreement attended to was, for the British, complete governance by the Crown and the right to develop colonial settlements. In return, the M-ori were promised protection of interests and rights and full citizenship rights. It is important to state that some discrepancies exist between the English version of the treaty and the M-ori. Various studies have indicated that the indigenous chiefs had a different understanding of what the agreement implied as opposed to what the British claimed. For example, whereas the English translation implies that full sovereignty was ceded to Queen Victoria, it is understood from the M-ori version of the text that the chiefs gave the British a right of governance. However, in their understanding, they were to keep their previous authority. The treaty later constituted the basis for indigenous settlers to request and claim rights in regards to loosing land and being subjected to unequal treatment. Nevertheless, while it served its purpose in 1840, and some M-ori were indeed successful in invoking the treaty for justice thereon, the mutual signed agreement was mainly put aside by the state in the following decades. In the 1970s, a number of complaints having been already acknowledged and pressure in regards to breaches in the treaty having increased substantially, the need for a new approach became evident. In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal, under the Treaty of Waitangi Act, was given the authority to address the claims of the M-ori people in regards to the Crown's violation of the treaty.
It is somewhat difficult to address the relevance of the document today. This is because the authority that was given to the British in the early days has since been passed on to New Zealand's Parliament. Moreover, decision making in this respect is now solely attributed to the corresponding Tribunal. As such, the Treaty of Waitangi, while it is considered and preserved as the founding document of New Zealand, does not appear valid in the general sense, but rather when it is applied to particular cases. The government is indeed the authority that takes over the recommendations from the Tribunal and decides whether or not the denouncer is compensated in light of proven injustice. It can be assumed that, if the Treaty is made a formal part of the Constitution, than the number of claims will increase considerably. In 2002, the tribunal officially registered the 1000th claim (Orange, 2004, p. 264). Since then, the number of complaints has grown constantly, with more than 2000 being lodged with the tribunal (NZ History, Treaty FAQs, p. 2) by 2012. This is not only time consuming (initially, it was estimated that the tribunal would complete its job by 1996, the term has now been pushed to 2020 approximately) but it also implies costly arrangements. However, bringing about the nature of justice, formally declaring the Treaty as part of the Constitution, would be beneficial to perhaps a majority of the M-ori in matters of financial compensations. Also, by formally recognizing the Treaty as constitutional, the M-ori people may reinstate their position in the country. Moreover, an official recognition may lead to a more integrative process where the perception over the M-ori community being a minority can be transformed. Indeed, there is relevance in regards to the Treaty of Waitangi in the present moment; however, this relevance is dependent on the necessity for clarifying certain points which have caused so much debate throughout the years.
Theoretically, the chiefs of New Zealand asked Britain to recognize their independence from as early as 1835, which is prior to the actual Treaty of Waitangi. In this respect, what the Treaty actual achieved was to persuade the chiefs to let go of that independence in more subtle ways. Britain thus continued to exercise its authority over New Zealand for a long period thereon. Until 1931, the British Parliament had the authority of law making in New Zealand without having to consult the latter. That year marked an important moment in the history of the country's independence, when the Parliament agreed not to exercise that authority any more without previous consultation with New Zealand. However, the adoption of the Statute of Westminster Act did not happen until 1947 when it further enriched the perception of New Zealand's independence. It was a constitutional Act of the Parliament that secured and formalized the Statute of Westminster 1931 and its implementation of legislative equality. Nevertheless, given that dominions were already independent and had been so for a long time, Harshan Kumarasingham stated that many believed ?that New Zealand had in fact formalized its independence when the Statute of Westminster received the royal assent from its war hero and governor-general Sir Bernard Freyberg on 25 November 1947. (2010, p. 32) That is to say that the Statute of Westminster was mainly regarded as a method of sealing something that had already happened and was already exercised in New Zealand one way or another, independence. Nevertheless, ties with Britain were not released until 1986, the year that marked the sequence of the Constitution Act 1852. The document is recognized as the country's formal statement of its constitution. Such small steps are what eventually led to the country's complete independence in the year 2000, although the queen continues to be regarded as the head of the state.
It is agreed that, technically, constitutions act on basis of either one individual entrenched document or either a set of documents, as is the case with New Zealand. It is also understood that, for an effective functioning of the system, constitutions emerge dependent and as a result of mutual applied principles. As such, one of the most important features of New Zealand's Constitution is its democratic character. Democracy in New Zealand evolved along its transformations in history, from being a colonial settlement towards acquiring dominion statute and later on self-governance as an individual monarchy. It was a continuous transformation process that reenacted the roles of governance in the country. A more accessible form of governance has been sought mainly since the 1980s on when it was agreed that official information was to be made available to interested individuals unless there would be substantial…