Leader of the Opposition (New Zealand)

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Leader of the Opposition of New Zealand
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
Simon Bridges

since 27 February 2018
Official Opposition of New Zealand
Shadow Cabinet of Simon Bridges
Style The Honourable
Leader of the Opposition
Member of
Reports to Parliament
Term length While leader of the largest political party not in government
Inaugural holder John Ballance
Formation2 July 1889
Salary$288,900 (As at 2016) [1]
Website Party profile
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand
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In New Zealand, the Leader of the Opposition is the politician who commands the support of the Official Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition by convention leads the largest party not supporting the government: this is usually the parliamentary leader of the second largest caucus in the House of Representatives. [2] In the debating chamber the Leader of the Opposition sits directly opposite the Prime Minister. [3]

Official Opposition (New Zealand)

Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, or commonly the Official Opposition, in New Zealand is usually the largest political party or coalition which is not a member of the ruling government—it does not provide ministers. This is usually the second-largest party in the House of Representatives, although in certain unusual circumstances it may be the largest party or even a third or fourth party.

A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most government functions are guided by constitutional convention rather than by a formal written constitution. In these states, actual distribution of power may be markedly different from those the formal constitutional documents describe. In particular, the formal constitution often confers wide discretionary powers on the head of state that, in practice, are used only on the advice of the head of government, and in some cases not at all.

A parliamentary leader is a political title or a descriptive term used in various countries to the person leading a caucus in a legislative body, whether it be a national or sub-national legislature. A party leader may be the same person as the parliamentary leader, or the roles may be separated.


The Leader of the Opposition is elected by his or her party according to its rules. A new leader may be elected when the incumbent dies, resigns, or is challenged for the leadership. The current Leader of the Opposition is Simon Bridges, who was elected by the National Party caucus on 27 February 2018. [4]

Simon Bridges New Zealand politician

Simon Joseph Bridges is a New Zealand politician and lawyer who has served as the Leader of the New Zealand National Party and Leader of the Opposition since 27 February 2018. He has been the Member of Parliament for Tauranga since the 2008 election. A self-described "compassionate conservative", Bridges has served in several Cabinet portfolios, including those of Minister of Transport (2014–2017) and Minister of Economic Development (2016–2017). He took the role of Leader of the House from May to October 2017.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.


New Zealand has a parliamentary system based on the Westminster model. The term "Opposition" has a specific meaning in the parliamentary sense; it is an important component of the Westminster system, with the Opposition directing criticism at the Government and attempts to defeat and replace the Government. The Leader of the Opposition leads a Shadow Cabinet, which scrutinises the actions of the Cabinet led by the Prime Minister. [5] The Opposition leader may be viewed as an alternative prime minister. [6]

Parliamentary system form of government

A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typically a parliament, and is also held accountable to that parliament. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature.

Government of New Zealand Central government of New Zealand

The Government of New Zealand, or New Zealand Government, 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, and more specifically to the collective ministry directing the executive. 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".

Cabinet of New Zealand

The Cabinet of New Zealand is the New Zealand Government's body of senior ministers, responsible to the New Zealand Parliament. Cabinet meetings, chaired by the prime minister, occur once a week; in them, vital issues are discussed and government policy is formulated. Though not established by any statute, Cabinet has significant power in the New Zealand political system and nearly all bills proposed by Cabinet in Parliament are enacted.

There are several ways in which the Leader of the Opposition participates directly in affairs of state. Often, these relate to national security matters, which are supposed to transcend party politics – the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, for example, is required to brief the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Prime Minister on certain matters. [7]

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service is New Zealand's primary national intelligence agency. As a civilian organization, it has no part in the enforcement of security but is responsible for providing information and advising on matters including national security and foreign intelligence. It is headquartered in Wellington and overseen by a Director-General, the Minister of New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee; independent oversight is provided by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. It was originally established on 28 November 1956 with the primary function of combating perceived increases in Soviet intelligence operations in Australia and New Zealand. Since then, its legislated powers have expanded to increase its monitoring capabilities and include entry into private property. Its role has also expanded to include countering domestic and international terrorism, chemical, biological, and cyber threats. The organization has been involved in numerous high-profile incidents such as the 1974 arrest of Bill Sutch on charges of spying for the Soviet Union, the 1981 assassination attempt by Christopher Lewis on Queen Elizabeth II, and the 1996 interception of GATT Watchdog organizer Aziz Choudry. It has also been criticised for its failures to anticipate or prevent incidents such as the 1985 bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, the 2004 purchasing of New Zealand passports by Israeli "intelligence contract assets", and the 2019 Christchurch Mosque Shootings by an Australian alt-right white supremacist terrorist.


The leader of the Opposition receives a higher salary than other members of the Opposition, being paid the same amount as a Cabinet Minister. [8] As at 2016 the Leader of the Opposition's salary is NZ$288,900. [9] [1] In addition, like all other members of parliament, the Leader of the Opposition receives annual allowances for travel and lodging.


For much of the country's early history, the role was not a formal one. For most of the 19th century, there was rarely any one person who could be considered Leader of the Opposition – those figures who took leading roles in opposing the government of the day were merely "first among equals", and had no formal office. It was only when the Liberal Party was formed that any unified leadership appeared in Parliament, and the role of Leader of the Opposition is generally traced from this point. John Ballance, leader of the Liberals (and later Premier) is usually considered the first Leader of the Opposition in the modern sense.

The New Zealand Liberal Party was the first organised political party in New Zealand. It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying large tracts of Māori land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The Liberal Government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

John Ballance 14th Premier of New Zealand

John Ballance was an Irish-born New Zealand politician who was the 14th Premier of New Zealand, from January 1891 to April 1893, the founder of the Liberal Party, and a Georgist. In 1891 he led his party to its first election victory, forming the first New Zealand government along party lines, but died in office three years later. Ballance supported votes for women and land reform, though at considerable cost to Māori.

Prime Minister of New Zealand head of the New Zealand government

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017.

When Ballance led the Liberals into government in 1891, they faced no formal opposition in a party sense, though certain MPs were styled Leader of the Opposition. However, their opponents gradually coalesced around a leader, William Massey, who became Opposition leader in 1903, and in 1909 became the first leader of the new Reform Party. After this, the Leader of the Opposition would always be the parliamentary leader of the largest party in the House of Representatives that had not undertaken to support the Government of the day.

One notable exception to this was during World War I, when the opposition Liberal Party accepted the governing Reform Party's offer to form a wartime coalition. Prime Minister Massey also extended the offer to the new Labour Party who rejected it. This made Labour the largest party not in government, however their leader Alfred Hindmarsh was not officially recognised as the Leader of the Opposition. Joseph Ward, who became Deputy Prime Minister in the wartime cabinet still retained the title, albeit in name only. [10]

During the 1910s and 1920s, the role of Opposition alternated between the Liberal and Reform parties. However, the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s, together with a gradual weakening in support for the Liberals, led to a three-party situation by the mid-1920s, with the Labour and Liberal parties having a similar number of seats. After the 1925 election there was no official Leader of the Opposition until Rex Mason of Labour won the seat of Eden in the by-election held on 15 April 1926. Labour superseded the Liberals as the official opposition and their leader Harry Holland became Leader of the Opposition. [11]

The 1928 general election put the United Party (a remnant of the Liberals) in government for the last time. Reform then became the Opposition, however in 1931 Reform entered into coalition with the Liberals, and Labour then became the Opposition, despite being the third party. The unity of the Coalition, culminating in the formation of the National Party in 1936, created a stable two-party system, with National and Labour alternating between Government and Opposition for much of the remainder of the century.

With the introduction of the MMP voting system, first used in the 1996 general election, the nature of opposition has changed. Now, though the leader of the largest non-Government party still becomes the Leader of the Opposition, there will usually be several parties who are "in opposition". An example of this arose after the 2002 general election, when the National Party gained only 27 seats, less than half the 58 seats held by opposition parties. This prompted calls from a number of parties, notably New Zealand First and the Greens, for the abolition or reform of the post. It was argued by these parties that the position had become an "anachronism" in the modern multi-party environment, and that the days of a united opposition bloc were gone. However, with the revival of the National Party in the 2005 general election, a more traditional relationship between Government and Opposition has been restored. According to Parliamentary Services, the Leader of the Opposition represents and speaks for all parties that are outside Government. [12]

List of Leaders of the Opposition

A table of Leaders of the Opposition is below. Those who also served as Prime Minister, either before or after being Leader of the Opposition, are indicated.

Colour key
(for political parties)
PortraitTerm of officePartyPrime Minister
1 John Ballance
MP for Wanganui
John Ballance 1880.jpg 2 July 188923 January 1891 Liberal Atkinson 1887–91
2 John Bryce
MP for Waikato
JohnBryce.jpg 23 January 189131 August 1891 Conservative Ballance 1891–93
3 William Rolleston
MP for Halswell
William Rolleston (cropped).jpg 31 August 18918 November 1893 Conservative
Seddon 1893–1906
4 William Russell
MP for Hawkes Bay
William Russell, ca 1878.jpg 26 June 18943 July 1901 Conservative
5 William Massey
MP for Franklin
William Ferguson Massey 1919.jpg 11 September 1903February 1909 Conservative
Hall-Jones 1906
Ward 1906–12
February 190910 July 1912 Reform
Mackenzie 1912
6 Joseph Ward
MP for Awarua [1]
Joseph Ward c. 1906.jpg 11 September 191327 November 1919 Liberal Massey 1912–25
7 William MacDonald
MP for Bay of Plenty
William Donald Stuart Macdonald, circa 1910.jpg 21 January 192031 August 1920 Liberal
8 Thomas Wilford
MP for Hutt
Thomas Wilford, 1928.jpg 8 September 192013 August 1925 Liberal
Bell 1925
Coates 1925–28
9 George Forbes
MP for Hurunui
George William Forbes.jpg 13 August 19254 November 1925 Liberal
Position vacant
from 1925 general election until after 1926 Eden by-election
4 November 192516 June 1926
10 Harry Holland
MP for Buller
Harry Holland (1925).jpg 16 June 192618 October 1928 Labour
(6) Joseph Ward
MP for Invercargill
Joseph Ward c. 1906.jpg 4 December 192810 December 1928 United
11 Gordon Coates
MP for Kaipara
Joseph Gordon Coates, 1931.jpg 10 December 192822 September 1931 Reform Ward 1928–30
Forbes 1930–35
(10) Harry Holland
MP for Buller
Harry Holland (1925).jpg 22 September 19318 October 1933 Labour
12 Michael Joseph Savage
MP for Auckland West
Michael Joseph Savage Portrait.jpg 12 October 19336 December 1935 Labour
(9) George Forbes
MP for Hurunui
George William Forbes.jpg 6 December 1935May 1936 United Savage 1935–40
May 19362 November 1936 National
13 Adam Hamilton
MP for Wallace
Adam Hamilton (1926).jpg 2 November 193626 November 1940 National
14 Sidney Holland
MP for Christchurch North until 1946
MP for Fendalton from 1946
Sidney George Holland (1953) 2.png 26 November 194013 December 1949 National Fraser 1940–49
15 Peter Fraser
MP for Brooklyn
Peter Fraser.jpg 13 December 194912 December 1950 Labour Holland 1949–57
16 Walter Nash
MP for Hutt
Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg 17 January 195112 December 1957 Labour
Holyoake 1957
17 Keith Holyoake
MP for Pahiatua
Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg 12 December 195712 December 1960 National Nash 1957–60
(16) Walter Nash
MP for Hutt
Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg 12 December 196031 March 1963 Labour Holyoake 1960–72
18 Arnold Nordmeyer
MP for Island Bay
Arnold Nordmeyer (1950).jpg 1 April 196316 December 1965 Labour
19 Norman Kirk
MP for Lyttelton until 1969
MP for Sydenham from 1969
Norman Kirk Portrait.jpg 16 December 19658 December 1972 Labour
Marshall 1972
20 Jack Marshall
MP for Karori
Jack Marshall, 1957.jpg 8 December 19724 July 1974 National Kirk 1972–74
21 Robert Muldoon
MP for Tāmaki
Muldoon 1978.jpg 4 July 197412 December 1975 National
Rowling 1974–75
22 Bill Rowling
MP for Tasman
Bill Rowling, 1962.jpg 12 December 19753 February 1983 Labour Muldoon 1975–84
23 David Lange
MP for Māngere
David Lange (cropped).jpg 3 February 198326 July 1984 Labour
(21) Robert Muldoon
MP for Tāmaki
Muldoon 1978.jpg 26 July 198429 November 1984 National Lange 1984–89
24 Jim McLay
(born 1945)
MP for Birkenhead
Jim McLay (cropped).jpg 29 November 198426 March 1986 National
25 Jim Bolger
(born 1935)
MP for King Country
Bolger, 1992.jpg 26 March 19862 November 1990 National
Palmer 1989–90
Moore 1990
26 Mike Moore
(born 1949)
MP for Christchurch North
Mike Moore.jpg 2 November 19901 December 1993 Labour Bolger 1990–97
27 Helen Clark
(born 1950)
MP for Mount Albert
Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg 1 December 19935 December 1999 Labour
Shipley 1997–99
28 Jenny Shipley
(born 1952)
MP for Rakaia
Jenny Shipley 2013 (crop).jpg 5 December 19998 October 2001 National Clark 1999–2008
29 Bill English
(born 1961)
MP for Clutha-Southland
Bill-English-Parliament-Profile.jpg 8 October 200128 October 2003 National
30 Don Brash
(born 1940)
List MP
Don.Brash.jpg 28 October 200327 November 2006 National
31 John Key
(born 1961)
MP for Helensville
John Key headshot.jpg 27 November 200619 November 2008 National
32 Phil Goff
(born 1953)
MP for Mount Roskill
Phil Goff.jpg 19 November 200813 December 2011 Labour Key 2008–16
33 David Shearer
(born 1957)
MP for Mount Albert
David Shearer.jpg 13 December 201115 September 2013 Labour
34 David Cunliffe
(born 1963)
MP for New Lynn
David Cunliffe, 2008.jpg 15 September 201327 September 2014 Labour
35 Andrew Little
(born 1965)
List MP
Andrew Little, 2017.jpg 18 November 20141 August 2017 Labour
English 2016–17
36 Jacinda Ardern
(born 1980)
MP for Mount Albert
Jacinda Ardern, 2018.jpg 1 August 201726 October 2017 Labour
(29) Bill English
(born 1961)
List MP
Prime Minister Bill English.jpg 26 October 201727 February 2018 National Ardern 2017–present
37 Simon Bridges
(born 1976)
MP for Tauranga
Simon-Bridges-Free-Crop.jpg 27 February 2018Incumbent National

1 From 4 August 1915 to 21 August 1919, the Reform Party and the Liberal Party formed a joint wartime coalition. Joseph Ward of the Liberals officially remained "Leader of the Opposition", even though he was actually part of the government.

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