About the programme

Te Tāhū o te Ture - The Ministry of Justice was tasked with managing the provision of public information relating to the End of Life Choice Act 2019 and Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill referendums. This mahi is outlined in the Cabinet paper Provision of Public Information for the 2020 Referendums. The purpose of the public information programme was to give New Zealand voters the opportunity to be informed ahead of casting their vote.

The Ministry created a website and a range of explanatory materials to assist the voting public in being informed on the two referendum topics. A key principle underpinning development of the explanatory information was ensuring the material was factual and impartial and did not provide opinion or commentary on either of the referendum topics. To achieve this, the language used in the website and explanatory materials followed the language of the Act and draft Bill as closely as possible.

About the referendums.govt.nz website

The Ministry created a website to provide the New Zealand public with factual and impartial information about the referendums. The language and terminology used was based as closely as possible on that used in the End of Life Choice Act and proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

The site is no longer live, but an archived versions of the site can be found at:

Archives New Zealand Referendums 2020 Information page(external link)

This archived version was correct at the time of the General Election 2020. From here you can access information about both referendum topics, as well as a range of translated and accessible resources

Accessible, accurate and impartial content

The Ministry’s role, as clearly outlined in the Cabinet paper, was not to debate the merits or risks of either referendum topic or to provide opinion or commentary.

All content on the referendums website and in the printed information materials explained what the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill and the End of Life Choice Act 2019 said they would do.

In producing explanatory materials, the Ministry summarised content and used plain language where possible to make information accessible and understandable to a broad spectrum of voters. In some instances, this meant explanatory information did not strictly adhere to the highly technical language in the Act or the proposed Bill. It was necessary to make technical content digestible to broaden its accessibility.

The Ministry took a layered approach to explanatory materials. This approach enabled voters to begin at introductory level information and progress to more detailed information, if they chose to do so.

The Ministry invested significantly in efforts to ensure content was accessible, accurate and impartial. Our assurance measures included: engaging external expertise on readability; market research including focus groups; and engaging an external review group of public management experts to ensure the content was factual and impartial as well as accessible and engaging.

The Ministry also followed standards for all government agencies providing information to the public, such as guidance on writing style and the use of plain language.

Referendums signposting activity

Ensuring broad and widespread reach across Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse voting population was critical to delivering a successful public information programme. The Ministry ran a multi-channel signposting campaign in the lead up to the election including advertising online, outdoors (such as bus advertisements) and via traditional mediums (such as radio). This signposting activity pointed people to the referendums.govt.nz website as the official, factual and impartial source of information.

What happens now

End of Life Choice Act

The End of Life Choice Act will come into force 12 months after the date the final votes are announced. The Act will be administered by the Ministry of Health. Information is available on the Ministry of Health website at:

End of Life Choice(external link)

Proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

Recreational cannabis is still illegal. Medicinal cannabis and hemp have not been affected by the outcome of the referendum. Medicinal use of cannabis is still allowed if prescribed by a doctor, and hemp is still legal.

Related resources

Cannabis Referendum Public Release 27 April 2021 [PDF, 5.9 MB]

Cabinet paper – referendums Provision of Public Information [PDF, 857 KB]

Proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill [PDF, 2.2 MB]

Cabinet paper – exposure draft Bill and summary of policies [PDF, 6 MB]

A guide to the proposed Bill [PDF, 1.3 MB]

End of Life Choice Act(external link)

End of Life Choice submissions(external link)

This page was last updated: