Today marks a quiet constitutional milestone. 50 years ago today, on 1 October 1962, the Ombudsman's Office opened its doors following the passage of the Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) Act 1962.
The idea of an Ombudsman originated in Sweden, where the Riksdag established a Riksdagens ombudsman to provide an independent check on the power of the king and to ensure that the law was followed. it spread across Scandinavia, and thence to New Zealand. In keeping with the Scandinavian tradition of a wide-ranging independent investigator, the new Ombudsman had the function of
investigat[ing] any decision or recommendation made (including any recommendation made to a Minister of the Crown), or any act done or omitted, relating to a matter of administration
And they swiftly proved their worth, providing an advocate for the people against mistreatment by the government.
Since then, the office has been reorganised, expanded, and given new responsibilities: in addition to being a general "representative" (which is what the word means), the Ombudsman is also responsible for investigating places of detention under the Convention Against Torture, hearing complaints under the UN Disability Convention, and of course dealing with OIA complaints. They're also now considered a part of our constitution, with the Act listed alongside the Constitution Act, Judicature Act, Bill of Rights Act, Treaty of Waitangi Act, and others when people reel off the scattered parts of our constitutional framework. In short, they've become fundamental to New Zealand and the way we do things here. Long may they continue.