Constitutional Amendments Update with four weeks to go before the third reading

The 18th Niue Assembly

With four weeks to go before the bills are returned to the Fono Ekepule for the third reading, several villages have yet to meet the Constitution Review Committee including the village of Alofi South, Tamakautoga, Toi, Hikutavake, Namukulu and Makefu.

The Constitution Review Committee (CRC) made up entirely of the Members of the Niue Assembly has chosen to write to all fourteen villages and community groups like the Niue Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Women and the Youth Council asking if they would like to meet with the CRC. The approach of the CRC is to wait to be invited to the villages and by the groups.

It’s understood they have met with 8 villages already and will meet the village of Vaiea on Sunday 7th July. They have not met with any of the community groups. BCN News understands that the majority of people who attended the village meetings are the older people.

For a major undertaking there is very little public information about the constitutional amendment bills with no information on Radio, TV or on Social Media.

At the second reading in May, it was revealed that if the public support the bills in a public referendum in August, all four bills will come into immediate effect after the Speaker Hima Douglas has signed the bills into law.

This is week 9 of the 13-week stand-down period for public meetings on the four proposed constitutional amendment bills. 

The feedback from the villages that have met with the committee has been mixed with some people who attended the meetings said that they would support the changes in the name of the Premier to Prime Minister and the change in the name of the New Zealand Office of the Auditor General.

However, there were lengthy discussions about the other two bills. The bill to increase the number of Cabinet from 4 to 6, people wanted assurances from the committee or the government that the increases will mean there will no longer be a need for Members assisting Ministers (MAMs) which is provided for in the Civil List Act. With the MAMs and the increase in Cabinet, half of the Niue Assembly will be working for the Executive.

This issue was raised by the Member from Hakupu Ritchie Mautama during the second reading of the bills in May asking what the government will do with the members assisting ministers given the amendment bill to increase the Cabinet from four to six members.

In that May meeting Premier Dalton Tagelagi said that the government is considering this change but there was confirmation to assuage the people’s concerns.

There were also concerns raised about the third bill to increase the term of the Assembly from three to four years. One villager contacted BCN News and said that during their village meeting, the people felt that three years was enough time for the government to execute their plans.

The argument that three years was not long enough did not hold up at that village meeting with people saying that most of the members of the Assembly hold their positions for many years or several terms and that ought to be long enough to do their work.

Some villagers felt that if they want to increase the term of the Assembly then there should be a limit to the term of the Premier or members. For example the Premier can only serve up to two terms and likewise for elected members.

The village of Vaiea will be meeting with the Constitution Review Committee on Sunday 7th July. The Chair of the CRC is Common Roll member Hon. Billy Talagi, members include Minister Crossley Tatui, Minister Sonya Talagi, Member for Hikutavake Ian Hipa, Member for Makefu, Tofua Puletama and the Deputy Chair is Common Roll member Sinahemana Hekau.

There are four weeks to go before the bills are returned for the third reading next month before the public referendum in August where the people will finally have their say on the four constitutional amendment bills.

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