Story: Nation and government

Page 3. The constitution

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Law and convention

New Zealand does not have a written constitution. The rules about how the country is governed are contained in acts of Parliament or embodied in ‘conventions’ (customary rules which lack legal standing).

Acts of Parliament

The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 (UK) established New Zealand’s system of government. Subsequent acts of the British and New Zealand parliaments included further constitutional provisions. The Constitution Act 1986 consolidated these earlier acts and clarified certain conventions.

The Electoral Act 1993 sets out how elections are to be conducted and the qualifications for voters and members of Parliament.

Constitutional rights

New Zealand does not have a Bill of Rights of higher status than the ordinary law of the country. Some rights are safeguarded under common law. Two acts of Parliament strengthened the protection of rights:

  • The Bill of Rights Act 1990 specified the rights citizens could expect when dealing with the government.
  • The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibited discrimination on various grounds.
How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Nation and government - The constitution', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 July 2024)

Story by John Wilson, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Sep 2016