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Constitutional Law and Regionalism

A Comparative Analysis of Regionalist Negotiations

Vito Breda

This topical book analyses the practice of negotiating constitutional demands by regional and dispersed national minorities in eight multinational systems. It considers the practices of cooperation and litigation between minority groups and central institutions in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. and includes an evaluation of the implications of the recent Catalan, Puerto Rican and Scottish referenda. Ultimately, the author shows that a flexible constitution combined with a versatile constitutional jurisprudence tends to foster institutional cooperation and the recognition of the pluralistic nature of modern states
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Chapter 7: New Zealand: the Westminster Model and meso-governance

Vito Breda


This chapter discusses the recognition and negotiation of identity-based constitutional claims in New Zealand. New Zealand population includes a large minority of Maori Peoples and several Pacific Islanders. New Zealand system of territorial governance is asymmetric. The Cook Islands and Niue are, for instance, in free association with NZ, Tokelau is a self-governing territory and the territories of the North and South Islands are governed as administrative units of a unitary state. I will explain that a distinctive decolonialization process combined with the clear allocation of political powers to the parliament and its government expedited the process of the recognition and negotiation of identity claims with Pacific Islanders and with the Maori minority. This chapter is divided into three sections, and is preceded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion. The first section engages the recognition of Maori constitutional claims. This section focuses on the change in status of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was, until the recent past, a manifestation of imperialistic policies, yet it is currently considered a manifestation of the constitutional recognition of New Zealand multinational society. The second section discusses the asymmetric allocation of administrative and legislative powers to the territories. This part discusses the free-association regime of the Cook Islands and Niue which might have inspired the doomed Ibarretxe plan for the Basque Country. The third section analyses the constitutional arrangement for the self-governing territory of Tokelau. The rejection of a referendum aimed at changing the status quo is relatively common, but the experience of Tokelau’s referenda shows that even in a confined population and with extremely well-resourced information, it cannot be expected that voters will comprehend the implications of a radical change in the system of governance.

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