New Zealand has a constitution – it is just not all written down in a single document. Instead, it has a number of sources, including crucial pieces of legislation, several legal documents, common law derived from court decisions as well as established constitutional practices known as conventions.
Prior to 1840, Māori Iwi and hapū were vibrant and functional constitutional entities. The arrival of the British Crown in New Zealand brought a different understanding of constitutionalism. Because constitutions determine how people live together as a country, how the country is run, and how laws are made, New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements have evolved over time and will continue to do so. In this way, constitutional documents are living documents.
Many of these documents are held by Archives New Zealand. This online gallery features twelve of the most important, historic, and significant constitutional milestones from our holdings. Click on an image below to explore a document, view or download a digital version, or learn more about its history.