The Rise, Fall and Re-Rise Of Deliberative Democracy In New Zealand


  • Simon Wright
  • Tatjana Buklijas University of Auckland (Koi Tū: Centre for Informed Futures)
  • Max Rashbrooke Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington



deliberative democracy, citizens’ jury, participatory democracy, participation, consultation, engagement


In New Zealand the last few years have seen a re-emergence of interest in processes that build on the theory of deliberative democracy. Commentary on this trend, which typically positions deliberative democracy as a novel development in New Zealand politics, ignores several decades of public agencies’ democratic experimentation. In this article we describe three of the 15 identified processes displaying the critical elements of deliberative democracy: the Capital Power citizens’ jury (1996); Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council’s public deliberation on pre-birth testing (2007–08), and the citizens’ advisory panel on the Newtown–Berhampore cycleway (2014). We analyse the reasons for their ostensible failure and identify lessons that current policymakers interested in deliberative democracy should draw from these historical cases.


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Author Biographies

Simon Wright

Simon Wright was a member of the Bioethics Council secretariat (2005–09) and the WCC consultation and engagement team (2009–14). He was involved in the pre-birth testing and cycleway projects. He is currently the chairperson of Trust Democracy, a non-profit organisation established in 2019 to strengthen public discourse, education and research about democracy in Aotearoa.

Tatjana Buklijas, University of Auckland (Koi Tū: Centre for Informed Futures)

Tatjana Buklijas is an academic at the University of Auckland (Koi Tū: Centre for Informed Futures).
Between 2020 and 2023 she was PI for an MBIE Endeavour Smart Ideas project on adapting and trialling deliberative democratic processes in Aotearoa New Zealand, part of which involved collaboration with Watercare and a citizens’ assembly on the next source of water for Auckland.

Max Rashbrooke, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Max Rashbrooke is a senior research fellow (adjunct) in the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington. His research interests include deliberative and participatory democracy, and he is the author of a forthcoming report on the 2023 WCC citizens’ assembly.