This section looks at the key legal instruments establishing the monarchy, all of which are important in the republic debate. We provide an analysis the Constitution Act 1986, the Letters Patent 1983, and various other Acts of Parliament. We also provide an analysis of these Acts, and how they might be amended should New Zealand become a republic.
Replacing references to the Sovereign (the Queen) the Governor-General and the Crown from New Zealand's statute law (legislation written and approved by Parliament) is legally easy to do.
November 25 2007 marked the 60th anniversary of New Zealand's adoption of the Statute of Westminster 1931, which we adopted with the consent of Britain in 1947. The adoption of the Statute of Westminster was legally more significant than Dominion status, yet is more obscure. For the republic debate, two issues stand out: the length of time it took for New Zealand to adopt the Statute, and the constitutional implications of it.
The Letters Patent are a legal instrument that create and regulate the office of Governor-General, and set out some of the powers of the Sovereign. They are a product of the Royal prerogative - as such, they are orders issued by the Sovereign.
The Constitution Act 1986 is the principle statement of New Zealand's constitution. The Act came into force from 1 January 1987, and replaced the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which started out as an Act of the British Parliament, and was later amended so that the New Zealand Parliament could alter and amend it. By 1986, only a few provisions of the 1852 statute remained.