FAQ #13 | Why are we having a referendum?
The End of Life Choice Act passed Third Reading in Parliament in November 2019 with 61 MPs in favour and 59 opposed. As the Bill made its way through the parliamentary process New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft introduced an amendment stating that if the Bill passed at Third Reading “the commencement of the Bill [would be] contingent on the outcome of a referendum.
The Bill did pass at Third Reading, so on September 19 all New Zealanders eligible to vote in the general election will also be asked to vote whether or not they support the End of Life Choice Act coming into force. If the referendum gets a majority of votes it will become law. As a result, we now have the responsibility of considering the proposed legislation, the risks and benefits it will bring, and then deciding if this is the kind of legislation we want here in New Zealand.
Could the End of Life Choice Act be amended or improved after the referendum before becoming law?
In the short term, no. The opportunities to amend the Bill were all within the parliamentary process. If the referendum is passed with a majority of “yes” votes, the Act will come into force as it currently stands. In future, if anyone wanted to amend this law they would need to do so through the courts, or through another parliamentary process.
How does COVID-19 affect the referendum?
So far, it hasn’t. While there have been questions and speculations from political commentators that the impact of COVID-19 may result in a delay in the 2020 general election, this has not yet been confirmed. If the election is delayed, however, it is highly likely that the End of Life Choice Act referendum (as well as the Cannabis referendum) will also be delayed.
 “End of Life Choice Bill – Third Reading,” (13 November 2019) https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20191113_20191113_16, accessed 26/03/20.
 J Marcroft SOP No. 287, Explanatory Note, (30 July 2019) http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/member/2017/0269/latest/versions.aspx, accessed 26/03/20.
 “Referendum on the End of Life Choice Act,” New Zealand Government, https://www.referendum.govt.nz/endoflifechoice/index.html, accessed 24/4/20.
 A Geddis, “The NZ election is a big event. Could it be delayed in a Covid-19 world?” (The Spinoff, 18 March 2020), https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/18-03-2020/the-nz-election-is-a-big-event-could-it-be-delayed-in-a-covid-19-world/, accessed 26/03/20.