List of Prime Ministers of New Zealand

Last updated

Four New Zealand prime ministers (pictured in 1992) – David Lange, Jim Bolger, Sir Robert Muldoon and Mike Moore Four past New Zealand prime ministers together in 1992.jpg
Four New Zealand prime ministers (pictured in 1992) – David Lange, Jim Bolger, Sir Robert Muldoon and Mike Moore

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of government of New Zealand, and the leader of the Cabinet of New Zealand, with various powers and responsibilities defined by convention. Officially, the prime minister is appointed by the governor-general of New Zealand, but by convention, the prime minister must have the confidence of the elected New Zealand House of Representatives. The prime minister is always a member of parliament, and is usually the leader of the largest political party in the House.

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.

A head of government is a generic term used for either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. The term "head of government" is often differentiated from the term "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.

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".


This list includes individuals who held the titles of colonial secretary and premier, the direct predecessors to the modern office. The title of the office was formally changed to "premier" in 1869, and then to "prime minister" in 1907 when New Zealand was granted Dominion status in the British Empire. Forty individuals have so far held the premiership, not including Hugh Watt, who was briefly the acting Prime Minister in 1974 and Winston Peters who was Acting Prime Minister for 6 weeks in 2018 during Jacinda Ardern's maternity leave. Henry Sewell is regarded as New Zealand's first premier. Nine prime ministers have held the position for more than one discrete term in office. The longest single term in office was that of Richard Seddon, who held the position for thirteen years between 1893 and 1906. The incumbent Prime Minister is Jacinda Ardern, who assumed office on 26 October 2017. [1]

Dominion of New Zealand former dominion of the British Empire

The Dominion of New Zealand was the historical successor to the Colony of New Zealand. It was a constitutional monarchy with a high level of self-government within the British Empire.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

Hugh Watt New Zealand politician

Hugh Watt was a Labour member of Parliament and briefly the Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand between 1 and 6 September 1974, following the death of Prime Minister Norman Kirk. He had been Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand since 8 December 1972. Watt later served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.


The parties shown are those to which the Prime Ministers belonged at the time they held office and the electoral districts shown are those they represented while in office. Several Prime Ministers belonged to parties other than those given and represented other electorates before and after their time in office.

New Zealand electorates voting district for elections to the New Zealand Parliament

An electorate is a geographical constituency used for electing members to the New Zealand Parliament. In informal discussion, electorates are often called seats. The most formal description, electoral district, is used in legislation. The size of electorates is determined on a population basis such that all electorates have approximately the same population.

Colour key
(for political parties)
PortraitTerm of officeElected
Colonial Secretaries (1856–1869)
1 Henry Sewell
MP for Christchurch
Henry Sewell, 1860 cropped.jpg 7 May 185620 May 1856 1855 (2nd) Independent Sewell
2 Sir William Fox
MP for Wanganui and Rangitikei
Sir William Fox, ca 1890.jpg 20 May 18562 June 1856— (2nd) Independent Fox I
3 Sir Edward Stafford
MP for Nelson
Edward Stafford.jpg 2 June 185612 July 1861— (2nd) Independent Stafford I
(2) Sir William Fox
MP for Rangitikei
Sir William Fox, ca 1890.jpg 12 July 18616 August 1862 1860–61 (3rd) Independent Fox II
4 Alfred Domett
MP for Nelson
Alfred Domett c1870-1887.jpg 6 August 186230 October 1863— (3rd) Independent Domett
5 Sir Frederick Whitaker
Frederick Whitaker.jpg 30 October 186324 November 1864— (3rd) Independent Whitaker–Fox
6 Sir Frederick Aloysius Weld
MP for Cheviot
Sir Frederick Aloysius Weld.jpg 24 November 186416 October 1865— (3rd) Independent Weld
(3) Sir Edward Stafford
MP for Nelson until 1868
MP for Timaru from 1868
Edward Stafford.jpg 16 October 186528 June 1869— (3rd)
1866 (4th)
Independent Stafford II
Premiers (1869–1907)
(2) Sir William Fox
MP for Rangitikei
Sir William Fox, ca 1890.jpg 28 June 186910 September 1872— (4th)
1871 (5th)
Independent Fox III
(3) Sir Edward Stafford
MP for Timaru
Edward Stafford.jpg 10 September 187211 October 1872— (5th) Independent Stafford III
7 George Marsden Waterhouse
George Marsden Waterhouse.jpg 11 October 18723 March 1873— (5th) Independent Waterhouse
(2) Sir William Fox
MP for Rangitikei
Sir William Fox, ca 1890.jpg 3 March 18738 April 1873— (5th) Independent Fox IV
8 Sir Julius Vogel
MP for Auckland East
Julius Vogel, ca 1870s.jpg 8 April 18736 July 1875— (5th) Independent Vogel I
9 Daniel Pollen
Daniel Pollen, ca 1873.jpg 6 July 187515 February 1876— (5th) Independent Pollen
(8) Sir Julius Vogel
MP for Wanganui
Julius Vogel, ca 1870s.jpg 15 February 18761 September 1876 1875–76 (6th) Independent Vogel II
10 Sir Harry Albert Atkinson
MP for Egmont
Sir Harry Albert Atkinson, ca 1885.jpg 1 September 187613 October 1877— (6th) Independent Atkinson I • II
"Continuous Ministry"
11 Sir George Grey
MP for Thames
George Grey, 1885.jpg 13 October 18778 October 1879— (6th) Independent Grey
12 Sir John Hall
MP for Selwyn
Sir John Hall, ca 1880.jpg 8 October 187921 April 1882 1879 (7th)
1881 (8th)
Independent Hall
"Continuous Ministry"
(5) Sir Frederick Whitaker
Frederick Whitaker.jpg 21 April 188225 September 1883— (8th) Independent Whitaker
"Continuous Ministry"
(10) Sir Harry Albert Atkinson
MP for Egmont
Sir Harry Albert Atkinson, ca 1885.jpg 25 September 188316 August 1884— (8th) Independent Atkinson III
"Continuous Ministry"
13 Sir Robert Stout
MP for Dunedin East
Robert Stout, 1885.jpg 16 August 188428 August 1884 1884 (9th) Independent Stout–Vogel
(10) Sir Harry Albert Atkinson
MP for Egmont
Sir Harry Albert Atkinson, ca 1885.jpg 28 August 18843 September 1884— (9th) Independent Atkinson IV
"Continuous Ministry"
(13) Sir Robert Stout
MP for Dunedin East
Robert Stout, 1885.jpg 3 September 18848 October 1887— (9th) Independent Stout–Vogel
(10) Sir Harry Albert Atkinson
MP for Egmont
Sir Harry Albert Atkinson, ca 1885.jpg 8 October 188724 January 1891 1887 (10th) Independent Atkinson V
"Scarecrow Ministry"
14 John Ballance
MP for Wanganui
John Ballance 1880.jpg 24 January 189127 April 1893 1890 (11th) Liberal Liberal
C&S with IPLL 1908–1910;
Labour 1910–1912; Independents 1911–1912.
15 Richard John Seddon
MP for Westland
Richard Seddon, 1906.jpg 1 May 189310 June 1906— (11th)
1893 (12th)
1896 (13th)
1899 (14th)
1902 (15th)
1905 (16th)
16 Sir William Hall-Jones
MP for Timaru
William Hall-Jones 2.jpg 21 June 19066 August 1906— (16th) Liberal
Prime Ministers (1907–present)
17 Sir Joseph George Ward of Wellington, 1st Baronet
MP for Awarua
Joseph Ward c. 1906.jpg 6 August 190612 March 1912— (16th)
1908 (17th)
1911 (18th)
18 Sir Thomas Mackenzie
MP for Egmont
Thomas Mackenzie.jpg 28 March 191210 July 1912— (18th) Liberal
19 William Ferguson Massey
MP for Franklin
William Ferguson Massey 1919.jpg 10 July 191210 May 1925— (18th)
1914 (19th)
1919 (20th)
1922 (21st)
Reform Reform
with Liberal 1915–1919;
C&S with independents.
20 Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell
Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, ca 1924.jpg 14 May 192530 May 1925— (21st) Reform
21 Joseph Gordon Coates
MP for Kaipara
Joseph Gordon Coates, 1931.jpg 30 May 192510 December 1928— (21st)
1925 (22nd)
(17) Sir Joseph George Ward of Wellington, 1st Baronet
MP for Invercargill
Joseph Ward c. 1906.jpg 10 December 192828 May 1930 1928 (23rd) United United
with Labour;
C&S with independents.
22 George William Forbes
MP for Hurunui
George William Forbes.jpg 28 May 19306 December 1935— (23rd) United
1931 (24th) United–Reform Coalition
23 Michael Joseph Savage
MP for Auckland West
Michael Joseph Savage Portrait.jpg 6 December 193527 March 1940 1935 (25th)
1938 (26th)
Labour First Labour
C&S with Rātana 1935–1936; Independents 1935–1946.
24 Peter Fraser
MP for Wellington Central until 1946
MP for Brooklyn from 1946
Peter Fraser.jpg 1 April 194013 December 1949— (26th)
1943 (27th)
1946 (28th)
25 Sir Sidney George Holland
MP for Fendalton
Sidney George Holland (1951).jpg 13 December 194920 September 1957 1949 (29th)
1951 (30th)
1954 (31st)
National First National
26 Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake
MP for Pahiatua
Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg 20 September 195712 December 1957— (31st) National
27 Sir Walter Nash
MP for Hutt
Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg 12 December 195712 December 1960 1957 (32nd) Labour Second Labour
(26) Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake
MP for Pahiatua
Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg 12 December 19607 February 1972 1960 (33rd)
1963 (34th)
1966 (35th)
1969 (36th)
National Second National
28 Sir John Ross (Jack) Marshall
MP for Karori
Jack Marshall, 1957.jpg 7 February 19728 December 1972— (36th) National
29 Norman Eric Kirk
MP for Sydenham
Norman Kirk Portrait.jpg 8 December 197231 August 1974 1972 (37th) Labour Third Labour
Hugh Watt
MP for Onehunga
Acting Prime Minister
Hugh Watt.jpg 31 August 19746 September 1974— (37th) Labour
30 Sir Wallace Edward (Bill) Rowling
MP for Tasman
Bill Rowling, 1962.jpg 6 September 197412 December 1975— (37th) Labour
31 Sir Robert David Muldoon
MP for Tamaki
Muldoon 1978.jpg 12 December 197526 July 1984 1975 (38th)
1978 (39th)
1981 (40th)
National Third National
32 David Russell Lange
MP for Mangere
David Lange (1992).jpg 26 July 19848 August 1989 1984 (41st)
1987 (42nd)
Labour Fourth Labour
33 Sir Geoffrey Winston Russell Palmer
(born 1942)
MP for Christchurch Central
Geoffrey Palmer.jpg 8 August 19894 September 1990— (42nd) Labour
34 Michael Kenneth (Mike) Moore
(born 1949)
MP for Christchurch North
Mike Moore, 1992 (crop).jpg 4 September 19902 November 1990— (42nd) Labour
35 James Brendan (Jim) Bolger
(born 1935)
MP for King Country
Bolger, 1992.jpg 2 November 19908 December 1997 1990 (43rd)
1993 (44th)
1996 (45th)
National Fourth National
with Right of Centre 1994–1995;
United NZ 1995–1996;
New Zealand First 1996–98;
with Mauri Pacific, Mana Wahine, Independents 1998–99;
C&S with Future 1994–1995;
Christian Democrats 1995–1996;
United NZ 1995-1995, 1998–1999;
ACT 1998–1999;
Independents 1998–1999.
36 Dame Jennifer Mary (Jenny) Robson Shipley
(born 1952)
MP for Rakaia
Jenny Shipley and Winnie Laban (crop).jpg 8 December 19975 December 1999— (45th) National
37 Helen Elizabeth Clark
(born 1950)
MP for Mount Albert
Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg 5 December 199919 November 2008 1999 (46th)
2002 (47th)
2005 (48th)
Labour Fifth Labour
with Alliance 1999–2002, Progressives 2002–2008;
C&S with Greens 1999–2002, 2005–2008; New Zealand First 2005–2008; United Future 2002–2008.
38 Sir John Phillip Key
(born 1961)
MP for Helensville
John Key February 2015.jpg 19 November 200812 December 2016 2008 (49th)
2011 (50th)
2014 (51st)
National Fifth National
C&S with ACT, United Future, Māori.
39 Sir Simon William (Bill) English
(born 1961)
List MP
Prime Minister Bill English.jpg 12 December 201626 October 2017— (51st) National
40 Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern
(born 1980)
MP for Mount Albert
Jacinda Ardern, 2018.jpg 26 October 2017Incumbent 2017 (52nd) Labour Sixth Labour
with New Zealand First
C&S with Greens.


Jacinda ArdernBill EnglishJohn KeyHelen ClarkJenny ShipleyJim BolgerMike Moore (New Zealand politician)Geoffrey Palmer (politician)David LangeRobert MuldoonBill RowlingNorman KirkJack MarshallKeith HolyoakeWalter NashKeith HolyoakeSidney HollandPeter FraserMichael Joseph SavageGeorge William ForbesJoseph WardGordon CoatesFrancis Bell (New Zealand politician)William MasseyThomas MackenzieJoseph WardWilliam Hall-JonesRichard SeddonJohn BallanceHarry AtkinsonRobert StoutHarry AtkinsonRobert StoutHarry AtkinsonFrederick WhitakerJohn Hall (New Zealand politician)George GreyHarry AtkinsonJulius VogelDaniel PollenJulius VogelWilliam Fox (New Zealand)George Marsden WaterhouseEdward Stafford (politician)William Fox (New Zealand)Edward Stafford (politician)Frederick WeldFrederick WhitakerAlfred DomettWilliam Fox (New Zealand)Edward Stafford (politician)William Fox (New Zealand)Henry SewellList of Prime Ministers of New Zealand

See also

This is a chronological list of all the living people who have served as Prime Minister of New Zealand at each moment in New Zealand history. In 2016, Radio New Zealand published a podcast series of interviews of all five of the former prime ministers, although before the series was completed, the sitting Prime Minister resigned, becoming the 6th former prime minister, but he declined to participate in the series. In 2017, four of the then-six former PMs spoke jointly about increasing refugee immigration to New Zealand.

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  1. "Biographies – Premiers and Prime Ministers | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 14 December 2017.