Prime Minister Chris Hipkins abandons plan for legislation to lower voting age for general elections

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has taken the axe to former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's plan to introduce legislation to bring the voting age down to 16 at general elections.

However, the Government will now focus on lowering the age for local body elections with legislation intended to be introduced this term. It would be considered by the next Parliament.

In November, the Supreme Court declared the voting age of 18 to be inconsistent with the right to be free of discrimination on the basis of age.

At a press conference following that declaration, Ardern announced the Government would draft legislation to bring the voting age down to 16, providing politicians with the opportunity to "share their view" and also "have a vote".

However, the legislation always looked destined to fail. To pass in the House, the Bill would have required support from 75 percent of politicians, but both National and ACT are vehemently opposed to a change.

But changes to the legislation for our local elections only require a normal 50 percent majority so the Government will go after that instead.

Hipkins supports giving the vote to 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds.

Make It 16 co-director Caeden Tipler said the group thanks the Government for "following through with their commitment to introduce a Bill" to lower the voting age at local elections.

However, it is disappointed "the Government has broken their commitment to have a Bill considered this term".

"Make It 16 calls on the Government to go back to their original commitment to introduce a Bill to be debated this term. Our human rights cannot wait."

A separate process sparked by the Supreme Court declaration is also underway. A Select Committee is considering the declaration and earlier this month invited public submissions on it.

Labour's Michael Wood, appearing on AM in early March, suggested that any change to the general election voting age would need to go to a referendum - something he admitted would be "very tough" to organise for this year's election.

"We've always had the view that if the voting age was to be lowered, it would be really significant and there would probably need to be a process of the New Zealand public having their say on that."

Make It 16, the group that took the voting age issue to the Supreme Court, said at the time that the Government was "going slow". 

"The Government has broken its promise to rangatahi and to Parliament for the committee to consider the declaration alongside a Bill. They must fix that by introducing a Bill now," said Tipler.