Last week the Institute had the pleasure of providing twenty EmpowerNZ participants with a space (and a large jar of jelly beans) so that they could work together to draft a submission to the Constitutional Advisory Panel (CAP). Supported by Mihiata Pirini and Marcelo Rodreiguez Ferrere, both facilitators at last year’s EmpowerNZ workshop, the group produced a detailed submission that among other things advocates for the strengthening of New Zealand’s current constitutional structure and the promotion of civics education in the national curriculum. Their final document will be available on the EmpowerNZ website by the end of the week.
Over the two and a half days the majority of the group’s time was spent debating and discussing thorny constitutional issues, however they did have an opportunity on Thursday to get some fresh air and visit the constitution room at Archives New Zealand. The group were also invited by Prof Philip Joseph to attend a session on the Thursday night at Russell McVeagh’s Wellington offices where they had the opportunity to ask questions of CAP co-chair Prof John Burrows, and member Deborah Coddington.
On Saturday morning the participants presented their submission to a panel whose role was to ask tough questions, ‘stress test’ their thinking, and draw out the group’s reasoning. The panellists were:
Wendy McGuinness – Chief Executive of the McGuinness Institute.
Bernie Napp – Senior Policy Analyst at Straterra, an industry group representing the New Zealand minerals sector.
Steven Sutton – Solicitor at Russell McVeagh, formerly the Legal and Constitutional Advisor at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
A member of the Constitutional Review Secretariat was also in attendance – based at the Ministry of Justice, the secretariat’s role is to provide support to the Constitutional Advisory Panel. This was an enormously valuable session for the participants in the final stages of their drafting. The discussion was great fun and the participants were grateful to the panellists for being so generous with their time.
The Constitutional Advisory Panel is currently seeking submissions on a number of constitutional issues. Submissions close 31 July 2013 – find out more at the Constitution Conversation website.