Direct democracy in New Zealand
by Steve Baron
Steve Baron holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science & Economics. He is a published author, a regular columnist in various publications throughout NZ, the Founder of Better Democracy NZ, a former businessman and Waipa Mayoral candidate.
Direct democracy in New Zealand continues to be a work in progress. In 1893 NewZealand debated having a constitutional framework similar to Switzerland. Although never enacted, a Referendum Bill was introduced to parliament. However, the Bill only providedfor non-binding, government-controlled referendums—in other words, plebiscites. This Billwas also re-introduced again in 1918 but failed. A statutory provision for constitutionalreferendums is also provided for under the
Electoral Act 1993
, section 268. This statutoryprovision is singularly entrenched which means that it can only be amended or repealed if passed by a 75% majority of all MPs, or by a majority in a referendum. Then, in 1984,Social Credit MP Garry Knapp introduced the Popular Initiatives Bill which would haveenabled 100,000 voters to trigger a non-binding referendum. The Bill was deferredpending a Royal Commission on the Electoral System.The Citizens' Initiated Referenda Act 1993 came about mostly due to broken electionpromises by the 1984 Labour government. These radical policies for the times causedimmense frustration and anger amongst New Zealanders. People at that time felt they hadbeen deceived. According to a number of academic surveys, MPs were less respectedthan ever before. As a nation we had lost confidence in our political representatives. Thisled to calls for a Royal Commission and during the 1981 and 1984 campaigns, the Labour