A referendum is a national vote on a question. A referendum can be started by a citizen (as long as it meets certain requirements) or by the government. If you are enrolled to vote, you can vote in a referendum. Referendums are an important part of New Zealand’s democracy.
Citizens initiated referendum
Any New Zealand citizen can start the process for a nationwide referendum.
Once the wording of the question has been agreed, the referendum organizer has twelve months to gather signatures in support of holding a referendum on the question. If at least 10% of registered voters support the referendum petition, a referendum can go ahead. It can be held with a general election, as a stand-alone poll or by postal vote.
Note that the results of a citizens-initiated referendum are indicative only — they are not binding. The government doesn’t have to act on or implement the referendum result.
A government-initiated referendum is promoted by the government of the day. Like a citizens-initiated referendum it can be held with a general election, at a stand-alone poll or by postal vote.
The government must pass legislation to enable the referendum to be held, unless the referendum is conducted by postal vote. The wording of the referendum question is decided as part of this legislative process.
Note that a government-initiated referendum can:
- be binding or indicative (non-binding).
- ask more than one question or have questions with more than two possible answers.