Kia ora tatou.
On February 6, 1840, at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, forty-three Northland
Chiefs signed a treaty that became known as the Treaty of Waitangi. Over
the following eight months, the treaty was signed by more than 500 Mori Chiefs
as it was taken around the country.
Today, 163 years after the signings, the Treaty of Waitangi remains a pivotal
document for New Zealand, one that increases in importance as we mature as
a nation. Our Constitution is not found in a single document. It consists
of laws, conventions and practices that reflect the fact that the Treaty
of Waitangi is one of the key founding documents of the modern New Zealand.
New Zealand’s system of government is unique. It is a system that
has developed over time to best cater for the very specific needs of our
as well as to reflect the particular make-up of our society. Our system,
like any system of government, is not perfect but it is working well. One
of its strengths is that it is continually evolving, just as our population
continues to grow and develop.
New Zealand has come a long way as a nation in the last 163 years. Our identity,
our individuality, has never been stronger than today. The first few years
of the new millennium have seen a confident New Zealand, a country that is
comfortable with its place in the world and one that compares and competes
well on the international stage.
To ensure that our democracy will continue to progress and our nation will
continue to prosper, we need to ensure a good level of understanding of our
system of government. The triennial edition of the DecisionMaker Guide to
Parliament and Government, published in line with our electoral cycle, is
a significant tool in this process.
Just as we expect our democracy to work for us, we have to work for our democracy.
This means taking part in the decision making process. This means voting,
participating in public life and contributing to the business of our nation.
I very much hope that many New Zealanders will read the articles and views
expressed in DecisionMaker 2003 and learn from this publication.
Dame Silvia Cartwright
Governor-General of New Zealand