Government of New Zealand

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Government of New Zealand
Te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa
New Zealand Government.svg
Website wordmark
Overview
Established1856 (first responsible government)
State New Zealand
Leader Prime Minister
Appointed by Governor-General
Main organ Cabinet
Responsible to House of Representatives
Headquarters The Beehive,
Molesworth Street, Wellington
Website beehive.govt.nz
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand
Constitution
Flag of New Zealand.svg New Zealandportal

The Government of New Zealand (Māori : Te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa), or New Zealand Government (ceremonially referred to as Her Majesty's Government in New Zealand on the Seal of New Zealand [1] ), is the administrative complex through which authority is exercised in New Zealand. As in most parliamentary democracies, the term "Government" refers chiefly to the executive branch, [2] and more specifically to the collective ministry directing the executive (as in British usage, but where Americans would use "administration"). Based on the principle of responsible government, it operates within the framework that "the Queen reigns, but the government rules, so long as it has the support of the House of Representatives". [3]

Māori language Polynesian language spoken by New Zealand Māori

Māori, also known as te reo, is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people, the indigenous population of New Zealand. Closely related to Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Tahitian, it gained recognition as one of New Zealand's official languages in 1987. The number of speakers of the language has declined sharply since 1945, but a Māori language revitalisation effort slowed the decline, and the language has experienced a revival, particularly since about 2015.

The phrase Her Majesty's Government is a formal term referring to the government of a Commonwealth realm or one of its constituent provinces, states or territories. In use since at least the height of the British Empire, the phrase has been inherited and integrated into the countries that emerged from that polity and which remain Commonwealth realms.

The Seal of New Zealand is the official seal of New Zealand, used to authorise official instruments of government, such as Royal Warrants, writs and Letters Patent. The seal is defined by the Seal of New Zealand Act 1977. The Seal of New Zealand Proclamation 1977 mandates the design of the seal. The Governor-General of New Zealand has custody of the Seal, for all official instruments of Her Majesty's Government in New Zealand.

Contents

Executive power is exercised by ministers, all of whom are sworn into the Executive Council and accountable to the elected legislature, the House of Representatives. [4] Several senior ministers (usually around 20) constitute a collective decision-making body known as the Cabinet, which is led by the Prime Minister (currently Jacinda Ardern). A few more ministers (usually junior or supporting) are part of the Executive Council but outside Cabinet. Most ministers have a portfolio of specific responsibilities such as departments or policy areas, although ministers without portfolio are sometimes appointed.

Ministers of the New Zealand Government

Ministers, in the New Zealand Government, are members of Parliament who hold ministerial warrants from the Crown to perform certain functions of government. This includes formulating and implementing policies and advising the governor-general. Ministers collectively make up the executive branch of the New Zealand state. In practice, the governor-general is obliged to follow the advice of the prime minister on the appointment and dismissal of ministers.

Executive Council of New Zealand

The Executive Council of New Zealand is the full group of "responsible advisers" to the Governor-General of New Zealand on state and constitutional affairs. All Government ministers must be appointed as executive councillors before they are appointed as ministers; therefore all Cabinet ministers are also executive councillors. The governor-general signs a warrant of appointment for each member of the Executive Council, and separate warrants for each ministerial portfolio.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

The position of prime minister belongs to the person who commands the support of a majority of members in the House of Representatives. The position is determined also by several other factors, such as support agreements between parties and internal leadership votes in the party that leads the Government. The prime minister and other ministers are formally appointed by the governor-general (who is the Queen's representative in New Zealand). [4] In practice, the governor-general acts on the advice of the prime minister in appointing ministers.

Governor-General of New Zealand Representative of the monarch of New Zealand

The Governor-General of New Zealand is the viceregal representative of the monarch of New Zealand, currently Queen Elizabeth II. As the Queen is concurrently the monarch of 15 other Commonwealth realms, and lives in the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of her Prime Minister of New Zealand, appoints a governor-general to carry out her constitutional and ceremonial duties within the Realm of New Zealand.

Advice, in constitutional law, is formal, usually binding, instruction given by one constitutional officer of state to another. Especially in parliamentary systems of government, heads of state often act on the basis of advice issued by prime ministers or other government ministers. For example, in constitutional monarchies, the monarch usually appoints Ministers of the Crown on the advice of his or her prime minister.

Terminology

The Beehive, Wellington, is the seat of government (the executive branch) The Beehive in June 2012.jpg
The Beehive, Wellington, is the seat of government (the executive branch)

The term Government of New Zealand can have a number of different meanings. At its widest, it can refer collectively to the three traditional branches of government—the executive branch, legislative branch (the Queen-in-Parliament and House of Representatives) and judicial branch (the Supreme Court and subordinate courts). [5] Each branch operates independently of the others in an arrangement described as "separation of powers". [6]

The executive is the organ exercising authority in and holding responsibility for the governance of a state. The executive executes and enforces law.

The Queen-in-Parliament, sometimes referred to as the Crown-in-Parliament or, more fully, in the United Kingdom, as the King or Queen in Parliament under God, is a technical term of constitutional law in the Commonwealth realms that refers to the Crown in its legislative role, acting with the advice and consent of the parliament. Bills passed by the houses are sent to the sovereign, or governor-general, lieutenant-governor, or governor as her representative, for Royal Assent, which, once granted, makes the bill into law; these primary acts of legislation are known as acts of parliament. An act may also provide for secondary legislation, which can be made by the Crown, subject to the simple approval, or the lack of disapproval, of parliament.

New Zealand House of Representatives Sole chamber of New Zealand Parliament

The New Zealand House of Representatives is a component of the New Zealand Parliament, along with the Sovereign. The House passes all laws, provides ministers to form a Cabinet, and supervises the work of the Government. It is also responsible for adopting the state's budgets and approving the state's accounts.

More commonly, the term is used to refer to the members of Parliament (MPs) belonging to a particular political party (or coalition of parties) with a large number of seats sufficient to win important votes (e.g. the vote to accept the budget each year). [6] The largest party or coalition will form a Cabinet—this is the sense intended when it is said that a political party "forms the government". [7] [8] The Constitution Act 1986, the principal part of New Zealand's constitution, locates the executive government in the Executive Council, [4] which may include ministers outside Cabinet. [9]

51st New Zealand Parliament

The 51st New Zealand Parliament was elected at the 2014 general election. This Parliament consists of 121 members and was in place from September 2014 until August 2017, followed by the 2017 New Zealand general election. Following the final vote count John Key was able to continue to lead the Fifth National Government.

A political party is an organized group of people, with broadly common views, who come together to contest elections and hold power in the government. The party agrees on some proposed policies and programmes, with a view to promoting the collective good or furthering their supporters' interests.

A coalition government in a parliamentary is a government in which multiple political parties cooperate, reducing the dominance of any one party within that "coalition". The usual reason for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in the parliament. A coalition government might also be created in a time of national difficulty or crisis to give a government the high degree of perceived political legitimacy or collective identity it desires while also playing a role in diminishing internal political strife. In such times, parties have formed all-party coalitions. If a coalition collapses, a confidence vote is held or a motion of no confidence is taken.

The executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, commonly called the "Beehive" because of the building's shape, houses many government offices and is also where the Cabinet meets. [10] Thus the name Beehive is sometimes used metonymically to refer to the New Zealand Government. [11]

The New Zealand Parliament Buildings house the New Zealand Parliament and are on a 45,000 square metre site at the northern end of Lambton Quay, Wellington. They consist of the Edwardian neoclassical-style Parliament House (1922); the Parliamentary Library (1899); the executive wing, called "The Beehive" (1977); and Bowen House, in use since 1991. Whilst most of the individual buildings are outstanding for different reasons, the overall setting that has been achieved "has little aesthetic or architectural coherence".

Beehive (New Zealand) Executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament buildings

The Beehive is the common name for the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings, located at the corner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington. It is so-called because its shape is reminiscent of that of a traditional woven form of beehive known as a "skep". It is registered as a Category I heritage building by Heritage New Zealand.

History

New Zealand was granted colonial self-government in 1853 following the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Governments were set up at both central and provincial level, with initially six provinces. [12] The provinces were abolished by the Abolition of Provinces Act 1876, during the premiership of Harry Atkinson. For the purposes of the Act, the provinces formally ceased to exist on 1 January 1877. [13]

The Sewell Ministry constituted the first responsible government, with control over all domestic matters other than native policy. [12] Formed in 1856, it lasted from 18 April to 20 May. From 7 May onwards, Henry Sewell was titled "Colonial Secretary", and is generally regarded as having been the country's first Prime Minister. [14] The first Ministry that formed along party lines did not appear until 1891, when John Ballance formed the Liberal Party and the Liberal Government. [15] [16] The status of the monarch's representative was upgraded from governor to "Governor-General" in 1917 letters patent. [12] [17]

Government and the Crown

Elizabeth II and her New Zealand Cabinet, photographed during the Queen's 1981 tour of the country New Zealand Cabinet, 1981.jpg
Elizabeth II and her New Zealand Cabinet, photographed during the Queen's 1981 tour of the country

The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state of New Zealand. [4] The monarch is considered to be the personification of "the Crown"—a legal term that refers to the state as a whole. [6] [18] The Crown is therefore regarded as a corporation sole, [19] [20] with the monarch, vested as she is with all powers of state, at the centre of a construct in which the power of the whole is shared by multiple institutions of government acting under the monarch's authority. [21] [22] Sovereignty in New Zealand has never rested solely with the monarch due to the English Bill of Rights 1689, later inherited by New Zealand, which establishes the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. [23] Nonetheless, the Constitution Act 1986 describes the monarch as the "Sovereign" of New Zealand. [4]

Royal Assent is required to enact laws and, [24] as part of the royal prerogative, the royal sign-manual gives authority to letters patent and orders in council, though the authority for these acts stems from the New Zealand populace and, [25] within the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy, the sovereign's direct participation in any of these areas of governance is limited. [21] The royal prerogative also includes summoning, proroguing, and dissolving parliament in order to call an election, and extends to foreign affairs: the negotiation and ratification of treaties, alliances, international agreements, and declarations of war. [26] [27]

The Queen rarely personally exercises her executive powers; since the sovereign does not normally reside in New Zealand, she appoints a governor-general to represent her and exercise most of her powers. [28] The person who fills this role is selected on the advice of the prime minister. [28] "Advice" in this sense is a choice generally without options since it would be highly unconventional for the prime minister's advice to be overlooked; a convention that protects the monarchy. As long as the monarch is following the advice of her ministers, she is not held personally responsible for the decisions of the Government. The governor-general has no official term limit, and is said to serve "at Her Majesty's pleasure". [29]

The Queen and her representative rarely intervene directly in political affairs. [28] Just as the sovereign's choice of governor-general is on the prime minister's advice, the governor-general exercises the executive powers of state on the advice of ministers. [4] For example, the governor-general's power to withhold the Royal Assent to Bills has been rendered ineffective by convention. [26]

Government in Parliament

Under the conventions of the Westminster system, the Government is responsible to the House of Representatives, the democratically elected component of Parliament, rather than to the monarch. This is called responsible government. [5] For example, ministers make statements in the House and take questions from other members of the House. [30] The Government is required by convention and for practical reasons to maintain the support, or confidence, of the House of Representatives. It requires the support of the House for the maintenance of supply (by voting through the government's budgets) and in order to pass primary legislation. [31] [32] By convention, if a government loses the confidence of the House then it must either resign or a general election is held. [6] [33]

Ministers

Also known as "ministers of the Crown", these are members of Parliament who hold ministerial warrants from the Crown to perform certain functions of government. This includes formulating and implementing policies and advising the governor-general. [34] Before 1996 nearly all ministers were members of the Cabinet, but since the introduction of proportional representation, which has led to complex governing arrangements, there are currently three categories of minister: ministers in the Cabinet, ministers outside Cabinet, and ministers from supporting parties. [35]

Executive Council

The ministers of the Sixth Labour Government, with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, 26 October 2017 New-govt-2017.jpg
The ministers of the Sixth Labour Government, with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, 26 October 2017

The Executive Council is a formal body which exists and meets to give legal effect to decisions made by the Cabinet, and to carry out various other functions. All ministers are members of the Executive Council and are entitled to be styled "The Honourable" for life, [36] except for the prime minister, who is styled "The Right Honourable", a privilege they retain for life. [37] Although not a member of the Executive Council, the governor-general usually presides at Council meetings. [38]

Cabinet

Cabinet (Māori : Rūnanga) is the senior collective decision-making body of the Government. [39] [40] Constitutional law, such as the Constitution Act 1986, does not recognise the Cabinet as a legal entity; it exists solely by constitutional convention. [41] Its decisions do not in and of themselves have legal force. However, it serves as the practical expression of the Executive Council, which is New Zealand's highest formal governmental body. [34]

The Prime Minister, the head of government, is responsible for chairing meetings of Cabinet. [42] The governor-general will appoint as prime minister the person most likely to receive the confidence of the House of Representatives to lead the Government. In practice, the appointment is determined by size of each political party, support agreements between parties, and leadership votes in the party that leads the Government. [42] [43]

Other ministers are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. Each minister is responsible for the general administration of at least one portfolio, and heads a corresponding public service department (see below). [40] [44] The most important minister, following the prime minister, is the finance minister, while other high-profile portfolios include foreign affairs, justice, health and education.

The legislative agenda of Parliament is determined by the Cabinet. At the start of each new parliamentary term, the governor-general gives an address prepared by the Cabinet that outlines the Government's policy and legislative proposals. [45]

Ministers outside Cabinet

Since the introduction of the mixed-member proportional electoral system in 1993 governments have been formed following agreements between a large party and smaller support parties. Government ministers from the support parties are often ministers outside Cabinet. Processes were developed to allow the parties to "agree to disagree" on some issues. [46] Ministers outside the Cabinet have the same overall duties and responsibilities as their senior colleagues inside Cabinet. [40]

Departments and other public sector organisations

New Zealand's "public service" includes 32 core government institutions—most have ministry or department in their name, e.g. Ministry for Culture and Heritage, or Department of Internal Affairs—which are listed in the first schedule to the State Sector Act 1988. [47] [48] Staffed by around 45,000 public servants, [49] they provide the government of the day with advice and deliver services to the public. Since the 1980s, the public service has been marketised. [50] Each department is headed by a chief executive who answers to a government minister for that department's performance. In turn, a minister is accountable to the House of Representatives for all actions of the departments he or she is responsible for. [48] This is called individual ministerial responsibility. [35]

The wider state sector [47] also includes about 2,800 Crown entities (including some 2,600 school boards of trustees and 20 district health boards), 17 state-owned enterprises, three officers of Parliament and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. [51]

Local government

There are two main tiers of elected local authorities—regional councils and territorial authorities—in some places merged into unitary authorities. While the central government deals with issues relevant to New Zealand and its people as a nation, local government exists "to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities", and "to meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses." [52]

List of successive governments

There have been three distinctly different periods of New Zealand government—firstly, the period before responsible government; second, from 1856 to 1890, the period in which responsible government begins; and the third period starting with the formation of political parties in 1891. [53]

By convention, a distinct government is named for the largest party that leads it. [54] [55] [56]

Current government

The current government, since October 2017, is a coalition between Labour and New Zealand First, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. A minority government, the coalition is reliant on the support of the Green Party in order to command a majority in the House of Representatives through a confidence and supply agreement. [56] [57]

See also

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Further reading