Hot Topic Reporting season
Hot Topic Reporting season
2 mins to read

NZ governments have a proud history of ignoring referenda results

Something to bear in mind before anyone gets too excited about the legalise cannabis referendum.

Thu, 24 May 2018

Labour is teeing up a referendum on legalising pot, as promised to the Greens as part of their confidence and supply agreement.

The referendum date is unknown, bar that it will be some time in 2019 or 2020.

But Justice Minister Andrew Little and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have both said it will be non-binding.

That's a key point.

Governments of both stripes have mostly ignored the results of non-binding referenda, be it on fire service cutbacks, smacking, the number of MPs or asset sales.

So, before advocates on either side of the cannabis debate get too excited, they should consider the stats below (the flag referendum, which was binding, has been left out).

Referenda results 

"Should the number of professional firefighters employed fulltime in the New Zealand Fire Service be reduced below the number employed on January 1, 1995?"
Yes: 79,475 (12.18%)
No: 572,919 (87.82%)

Should the size of the House of Representatives be reduced from 120 members to 99 members?" 
Yes: 1,678,054 (81.5%)
No: 381,984 (18.5%)

"Should there be a reform of our justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?"
Yes:  1,886,705 (91.8%)
No: 169,699 (8.2%)

"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
Yes:  201,541 (11.98%)
No: 1,470,755 (87.40%)
The last election also saw a legislatively required government-initiated referendum:
"Should New Zealand keep the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system?"
Keep: 1,267,955  (57.77%)
Change: 926,819  (42.23%)
"Do you support the government selling up to 49% of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power,
Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"

Yes: 442,985 (32.4%)
No: 920,188 (67.3%)
Informal Votes 4,167 (0.3%)



Source:; balance to 100% is invalid or informal votes.

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NZ governments have a proud history of ignoring referenda results