Story: Nation and government
Page 3 – The constitution
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 Constitution Act 1852 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.
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.