5 Aug 2011

'Challenge' to engage people in constitutional debate

6:52 am on 5 August 2011

The co-chair of the panel set up to undertake a constitutional review says one of the hardest jobs will be to get people engaged in the debate.

Sir Tipene O'Regan of Ngai Tahu is part of the 12-strong independent group that over the next three years will examine a range of topics from Maori seats in Parliament and the role of the Treaty of Waitangi to whether New Zealand should have a written constitution.

He says one of the challenges will be to get New Zealanders to discuss issues of principle.

He says that is because the default position in democracies tends to be who is getting what, rather than the underlying questions - which only get discussed in times of crisis.

Sir Tipene says, historically, Maori have been no better at dealing with questions about matters of principle than Pakeha.

The panel is yet to decide on how to engage tangata whenua.