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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 Maori Chiefs as it was taken around the country.

Today, 166 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 nation, 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 166 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 and learn from this publication.


Dame Silvia Cartwright

Governor-General of New Zealand











Dame Silvia

Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New Zealand, ended her term during 2006









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