NZ 1986 Constitution Act – A Sham or Legit?

On 13th June 2017, Investigate Magazine published an article by Ian Wishart, NZ’s dirtiest political secret: the bloodless coup of 1986 in which he asserts the following; June 2017: Seventeen years ago a little-known conference of constitutional experts revealed New Zealand’s dirtiest political secret: that in 1986 the NZ Parliament seized control of the country in a bloodless coup, declaring themselves sovereign above  the people  in a technical but highly significant move.  Nearly two decades later, the position has never been rectified…[1] Whilst it may appear somewhat alarming he goes on to state that the Parliament of NZ by introducing the 1986 Constitution Act removed all recourse the New Zealanders had to apply directly to the Monarch about abuses of parliamentary power because the Parliament of NZ had effectively made itself supreme ruler crowning themselves absolute Monarch, “with unlimited and unchallengeable powers to regulate the lives of the voters.  Do ordinary New Zealanders now have to swear fealty to Parliament?  If you examine the 1986 Constitution Act the answer appears to be yes, and Parliament still has powers to imprison any New Zealander for ‘contempt of Parliament’.[2] Therefore if we take this supposition to its conclusion then Parliament is answerable to none but itself, and its oaths of allegiance to HM the Queen are nothing but a sham, a lie.

I am not a constitutional expert or lawyer, so I cannot comment upon the legalities of the above argument, however if it is in anyway correct, it does create a significant problem for democracy within New Zealand, and does explain how Parliament and governments have been able to adopt policies that have been seen as harmful to New Zealand. My interest is in mainly within the defence and security realm and as a former serviceman it does create a conundrum because our oath of service and loyalty is to HM the Queen, her heirs and successors, not the Parliament of New Zealand.

Assuming that Wishart is correct in his supposition then, what if anything can be done about this? I presume that it would take an Act of Parliament to change or repeal the 1986 Constitution Act. However I cannot see a New Zealand Parliament willingly restraining itself, especially the two current major political parties, National and Labour, considering that they are the authors of the original Act. It would take a mass public uproar, unprecedented in New Zealand’s history, from all sections of society to force those two parties to change the Act for the better. The 1981 Springbok Rugby tour of New Zealand caused significant civil strife within New Zealand, but that would be something like Tana Umanga’s handbagging[3] of Chris Masoe in comparison to the uproar that would be required to force the major political parties to act, and I don’t think that Kiwis would get worked up enough to undertake something like that, unless Parliament was to go down a sinister draconian path. Unfortunately if Wishart is correct, there is really nothing to stop a future Parliament heading down that path if it so desires.  

So where does that leave us? In a situation that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't? Possibly. Not being, as I said, an expert in constitutional law, I cannot confirm or repute Wishart’s argument. On the face of it he does have a valid point and I believe that we would be foolish to ignore it. However on a scale of probabilities that he is correct I cannot give it a value. My countenance would be to undertake a watching brief, prepare for the worse, and hope for the best, like any good commander would. I would also make it known to the pollies that we are watching them and their every move, and that we still have the ballot boxes. The thought of losing votes is their weakness and biggest fear. If they are thrown out of Parliament then they have to work in the real world. 


Booker, J. (2006, July 7). All Black drama of handbags at dawn. New Zealand Herald , 6.03pm(Online). Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand Herald. Retrieved November 15, 2019, from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10384002

Wishart, I. (2017). NZ’s dirtiest political secret: the bloodless coup of 1986. Investigate Magazine . Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved October 05, 2019, from https://investigatemagazine.co.nz/20804/nzs-dirtiest-political-secret-the-bloodless-coup-of-1986/

[1] (Wishart, 2017).
[2] Ibid.
[3] (Booker, 2006)


God Defend New Zealand.

The English language title of the national anthem of New Zealand is "God Defend New Zealand", and the during the recent history of New Zealand from 1991 until today, one could be forgiven thinking God is basically the only one defending New Zealand. Kiwi politicians (pollies) are great on talking the big talk about defence, however when it comes to walking the walk, they are noticeable by their absence and lack of action.  Regardless of their party affiliation, when it comes to defence, the vast majority of them have deep pockets and very short arms, combined with myopic vision that only sees votes and no farther than the next election.

Kiwi pollies tend to treat defence as an afterthought because it doesn't garner votes and generally doesn't resonate with the voting public, except when it has been politicised by by one of the political parties, as in the case of Helen Clark politicising the A-4K Skyhawk replacement with US F-16 aircraft prior to and during the 1999 election; and the ANZAC frigate replacement by a vocal minority of the political left during the mid 1990s. But it was NZ First Leader Winston Peters who put the kibosh on the acquisition of a third ANZAC frigate, when he was in Coalition government with the Jenny Shipley led National Party, during the late 1990s. Here you see defence being used for political ideological reasons, which in the case of the 1998 -99 Labour Party leadership, go back to the 1960 anti Vietnam war protests. Clark was a known protester at the time, and was also known for protesting against the acquisition of the A-4K Skyhawks, by the Holyoake National government in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Whilst both Labour and National governments have stuck to neoliberal economic policies, after a Labour government introduced them in 1984, National Party governments have an emphasis on austerity by reducing government spending and government debt. As always, defence is one of the casualties and some of the National Party government "reforms" have had detrimental impacts upon defence, causing significant morale problems, reduced force availability, and resulted in high numbers of personnel leaving the forces.

There are four parts to what I call the defence conundrum:

  • Politicians.
    • Politicians don't care because there is no backlash at the ballot box. They appear to think that defence is a luxury, not a necessity. However the pollies don't think long term and don't look at long term consequences. Their focus is always the ballot box - the next election, and any political debate about defence at election time has been smothered, because both Labour and National have a backroom agreement not to discuss it.
  • Bureaucrats - Public Service.
    • The bureaucracy across the public service looks after it's own patch and in the case of Defence, both MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs  and Trade) and Treasury have too much say in the defence portfolio. MFAT is also controlled by a trade at all costs cabal which prioritises trade before diplomacy, or anything else. What they, Treasury and the pollies, don't realise is that for millennia, both trade and defence have always had a symbiotic relationship, because without one you cannot have the other. The same relationship that existed between the two was present when Alexander the Great with his army marched from Macedonia to India, when Julius Ceaser invaded Britain, when Genghis Khan and his grandson Kublai Khan and their armies raided and invaded from Mongolia into Europe and China, right through up until today. Wars are about two things:
      • Religion or,
      • Land, trade and property meaning wealth. Hence we cannot have trade without a defence force to protect it from those who wish to rob or disrupt it. Nor can we have a defence force without the trade to fill the Treasury to pay for it. That is our symbiotic relationship - we cannot have one without the other.
  • Treasury.
    • If Treasury had its way the government would not spend any money. Treasury has long failed to understand how defence actually uses its equipment.  Pollies, non defence bureaucrats and economists tend to think that defence can be operated like any business - a one size fits all mentality. However this is not the case and such an approach has cost NZ hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, in acquisitions that are not fit for purpose. The cheapest is best model does not work, especially with military acquisitions. 
  • Public apathy.
    • The general public don't really care about defence until something bad happens such as a natural disaster or a war, or every ANZAC Day when they gather in their thousands to honour those who have died in foreign wars and those who have served. However for the other 364 days defence is forgotten, unless a natural disaster occurs and NZDF is at the forefront of relief efforts, or is involved in a SAR (Search & Rescue).

What has resulted is a hollowed out defence force that is short on people, equipment, resources and funding. It cannot do all of the taskings that is required of it by government and it struggles to met the policy objectives set by government even those these have been reduced over time. NZDF does its utmost to meet the policy objectives which results in personnel putting the tasking / mission before other requirements such as maintenance, training, leave, etc., causing serious and expensive problems later on with major equipment failures and personnel burnout.

NZ 1986 Constitution Act – A Sham or Legit?

On 13 th June 2017, Investigate Magazine published an article by Ian Wishart, NZ’s dirtiest political secret: the bloodless coup of 1986 i...