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The soc.culture.new-zealand FAQ
Section - B3.1 The Political Scene

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Would anyone care to write a brief summary of the main political parties
and post them to the net for comment?

B3.1.1  Why 'New Zealand'

It is simply "New Zealand" - not the "People's Republic of" or
"Commonwealth of" or "Kingdom of" or anything like that.  It used to be
"The Dominion of New Zealand" pursuant to a long-forgotten dream of a kind
of federal British empire that one of our early prime ministers (Bill
Massey) was keen on, but the "Dominion of" bit was dropped several years
ago.

I have a long debate about the origins of the names for NZ which I'm still
editing into shape.  It may go in here.

--------------------

B3.1.2  Constitution

New Zealand shares with Britain and Israel the distinction of being one of
the three developed countries that does not have a codified Constitution on
the U.S. model.  When the country was annexed by Britain in 1840, the
British parliament enacted that all applicable law of England as at 1840
became the law of New Zealand.  In 1856, the New Zealand parliament was
given the power to enact its own law and nothing changed when full
independence was achieved (26-9-1907) except that the British parliament
lost its overriding authority.  We have, thus, never had the problem that
Australia and Canada have had of "repatriating" a constitution that was
really an Act of the British parliament.

Our constitution, like the British, consists of parliament's own
conventions and rules of conduct, some legislation such as the New Zealand
Constitution Act (1986, not enacted), and fundamental rules applied by the
Courts which go back into English history.  It evolves rather than is
amended.

The flag of NZ is blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side
quadrant with four red five-pointed stars edged in white centered in the
outer half of the flag; the stars represent the Southern Cross
constellation.

--------------------

B3.1.3  Form Of Government

Paul Gillingwater wrote:

"Constitutional monarchy, with a single-chamber parliament.

The monarch is said to "reign but not rule":  except for a residual power
to actually govern in the event of some complete breakdown of the
parliamentary system, the monarch has merely ceremonial duties and advisory
powers.  When the monarch is absent from the country, which is most of the
time, those duties and powers are delegated to the Governor-General who is
appointed by the monarch for a limited term after approval by the
government.

Parliament is the consitutional "sovereign" - there is no theoretical limit
on what it can validly do, and the validity of the laws which it enacts
cannot be challenged in the courts (although the courts do have and use
wide-ranging powers to control administrative acts of the government).  A
new parliament is elected every three years (universal suffrage at age 18).
The leader of the party which commands majority support in parliament is
appointed prime minister and he or she nominates the other Ministers of the
Crown.  The ministers (and sometimes the whole majority party in
parliament) are collectively called "the government".  Our system almost
entirely lacks formal checks and balances - the majority party can
virtually legislate as it likes subject only to its desire to be re-elected
every three years.

Until now, members of parliament have been elected on a single-member
constituency, winner takes all, system similar to those of Britain and the
U.S.A.  As a result of referenda conducted in 1993, future parliaments will
be elected on a mixed-member proportional system modelled on that of
Germany.

The administration is highly centralised.  The country is divided into
"districts" (the urban ones called "cities") each with a District (or City)
Council and Mayor, but their powers are limited to providing public
facilities (not housing) and enforcement of by-laws (local regulations)
such as parking regulations.  The Police are a single force controlled by
the central government.

The draft of the new electorate Boundaries under MMP is available from
http://actrix.gen.nz/general/politics.html.  There are 3 files:
nth_isle.gif  --> north island electorates
sth_isle.gif  --> South island electorates
auckland.gif  --> Auckland electorates"

Ross Stewart (WWG IT recruiters, Akld, NZ) writes:
For interest, we've put up (as best we can) details as to how seats will be
allocated under MMP.  Have a look at:
 http://www.clearfield.co.nz/wilson_white/mmp.htm

Colin Jackson adds:
Announcing the NZ Elections Home Page on the government web server:
 http://www.govt.nz/
Material on the server includes:
- A Guide to the MMP voting system
- How to Enrol, with an Internet form
- Maps of all the new electorates
- A text search tool to establish which electorate(s) a given place is in
- Results of the last election
It will carry the results of the 1996 election as these become available.
The address of the elections home page is:
 http://www.govt.nz/elections

--------------------

B3.1.4  The Justice System

There is a four-level hearings and appeals system:

Top level   Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (London)
                                  |
                    Court of Appeal (Wellington)
                                  |
                       High Court (in all cities)
                                  |
Bottom level          District Courts (most towns)

There is also the Small Claims Court which handles smaller personal
disputes.

Civil and criminal cases start in the District or High Court, depending on
their seriousness and appeals go up the chain.  Certain rare cases can
start in the Court of Appeal.  District and High Court judges sit alone or
with juries.  The Court of Appeal (and on certain rare occasions the High
Court) consists of three or five judges sitting "en banc".  The Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council consists mainly of British Law Lords with
New Zealand judges also sitting in New Zealand cases; in theory its
decisions merely "opinions" for the benefit of the monarch as the fount of
all justice, but in practice its rulings have the force of ultimate appeal.

All judges are appointed by the government - High Court judges are
nominated by the Law Society, but District Court judges apply for the job
like any other.  Various special-purpose courts (Industrial Court, Maori
Land Court, Family Court, etc.) exist and have the same status as either a
District Court or the High Court.

For the NZ Statutes:
 http://io.kete.co.nz/gpprint/gptop.htm
and there's a pointer to it from http://www.govt.nz/

--------------------

B3.1.5 Organisation Membership

New Zealand is a member of the following organsations:

ANZUS (US suspended security obligations to NZ on 11 August 1986), APEC,
AsDB, Australia Group, C, CCC, CP, COCOM, (cooperating country), EBRD,
ESCAP, FAO, GATT, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF,
IMO, INMARSAT, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, LORCS,
MTCR, OECD, PCA, SPC, SPF, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIIMOG, UNTSO, UPU,
WHO, WIPO, WMO

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