Magna Carta & New Zealand

As part of our work on the 800th Anniversary Commemorations, Chris Jones and I are edited a volume entitled Magna Carta & New Zealand: History, Law, Politics in Aotearoa. The online copy is now available from Palgrave Macmillan, and the hard copy is available through a number of outlets.

little cover proof

The volume offers a unique perspective on constitutional theory and practice. Despite its small size, New Zealand is an influential constitutional model. Recent literature often uses New Zealand as an exemplary ‘political constitution’ in which Parliament retains legislative preeminence. This volume focuses on the roles of Magna Carta in that development. Readers will benefit from in-depth analyses that go beyond clichéd tributes to the ‘rule of law’ to investigate contests over different views of Magna Carta and consequent specific local developments and innovation while simultaneously reflecting upon larger constitutional themes.

In addition to exploring the social, political and legal impact of the Charter in New Zealand’s history, a number of the contributions focus on the relation between Magna Carta and Māori politics, reflecting on both the conceptual and practical challenges of legal pluralism and the Treaty of Waitangi. Other distinctive contributions include the role of Magna Carta in contemporary courts and in modern constitutional theory. Taken together, the collection analyses how Magna Carta shaped New Zealand’s past and present and further, how Magna Carta can and might shape New Zealand’s future.

Pre-publication reviews

The Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias GNZM, Chief Justice of New Zealand

Why does it matter to us in New Zealand what happened at Runnymede 800 years ago? This book is essential reading for those who would know why. The mythology that has grown around Magna Carta obscures its achievements and the influence it continues to exert. Magna Carta did not set up the sovereignty of Parliament or the rule of law. But it was the start of a constitutional journey we are still undertaking. The “Great Charter of the Liberties of England” and the folk memories it has left tap into enduring values behind the politics and self-interest of the moment in 1215. Its protest against deprivation of liberty and property except by process of law and its curb of arbitrary power continue to resonate. It was critical in the battle of ideas which led eventually to parliamentary government. A fragment remains in force in New Zealand today. And its example is invoked in our own great Charter, the Treaty of Waitangi. This account of the continuing pull of Magna Carta in our society stimulates thinking about what matters.

The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer, KCMG AC QC

Magna Carta is a rich symbol within many western societies of the value of liberty under the law. The delivery of justice, freedom from arbitrary governmental action, the subordination of the monarch to the law are ideas that resonate still. And New Zealand is part of that tradition. One section of Magna Carta remains part of our law. This collection from New Zealand scholars analysing the significance of Magna Carta here more than 800 years after it came into being enriches our own sense of New Zealand’s constitutional history and suggests a need to take greater interest in our contemporary constitutional arrangements.

The Editors

chris with mc

Chris Jones with Canterbury’s 1532 copy of Magna Carta

Stephen Winter (Auckland)

Chris Jones (Canterbury)

Chapter Authors

Lindsay Breach (Canterbury)

Lindsay Diggelmann (Auckland)

Jeremy Finn (Canterbury)

Chris Jones (Canterbury)

Geoff Kemp (Auckland)

Laura Kamau (Ngāi Tahu Research Centre)

Anna Milne-Tavendale (Canterbury)

Andrew Sharp (Auckland)

Te Marie Tau & Madi Williams (Canterbury)

David Williams (Auckland)

Stephen Winter (Auckland)