Senior Government minister Michael Wood hints at voting age referendum

The Government will consider whether the voting age should be brought down to 16 "in the next little while", senior minister Michael Wood says.

It follows a Supreme Court declaration late last year the current voting age of 18 was inconsistent with the right in the New Zealand Bill of Rights to be free of discrimination on the basis of age. 

On Friday afternoon, thousands of teenage activists are expected to march in the School Strike 4 Climate - with lowering the voting age being among their demands.

But given the voting age was entrenched - meaning it would require a supermajority in the House to change - any adjustment would require the support of the National Party.

Veteran National MP and former leader Judith Collins reaffirmed her party's opposition to lowering the voting age during AM's political panel on Friday.

But Senior Government minister Michael Wood, appearing alongside Collins, said Cabinet was considering the voting age "in the next little while".

"We'll be working through that," he said. "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."

The Government announced in November it would draft legislation on the matter to allow all of Parliament to consider it. 

"There's been a legal process that means we do need to respond," Wood said.

"I think for any big change to your voting system you generally need to talk to the people."

If the matter did go to a referendum, however, Wood said it would be "very tough" to hold it at this year's general election, "given the timeframes".

"The other issue I'm really conscious of at the moment - yes, there are important issues to work through like this one… but we've got a big focus on the cyclone recovery at the moment. Some of these things might just take a little bit more time to work through."

Later on Friday morning, Make It 16 - the group that took the voting age issue to the Supreme Court - accused the Government of "going slow" on the matter.

"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 Make It 16 co-director Caeden Tipler.

"A Bill is important because it gives Parliament the power to actually change the law and uphold our human rights. Instead the Government has waited three months, not introduced a Bill, and allowed just two weeks for young people to submit to the Select Committee on the declaration."

Along with National, ACT has also opposed the change.

"We don’t want 120,000 more voters who pay no tax voting for lots more spending," ACT leader David Seymour said in November.

"The Supreme Court needs to stick to its knitting and quit the judicial activism."

But Greens Justice spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman, whose party is for the change, said: "Young people deserve to have a say in the decisions that affect them, both now and in the future. 

"We are calling on the Government to come to the table with a plan to change the law to extend the voting age."

The Supreme Court decision was "a testament to the hard work and passion of all the young people who fought tirelessly to uphold their basic right to have a say in how their country is run", she said.