Minister of Foreign Affairs (New Zealand)

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Minister of Foreign Affairs
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
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Winston Peters, 2011.jpg
Rt Hon Winston Peters

since 26 October 2017
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Style The Honourable
Member of
Reports to Prime Minister of New Zealand
Appointer Governor-General of New Zealand
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
Inaugural holder James Allen
Formation24 November 1919
Salary$288,900 [1]
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This article is part of a series on the
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The Minister of Foreign Affairs is a senior member of the Government of New Zealand heading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and responsible for relations with foreign countries.

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".

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (New Zealand) Runs diplomatic relations and trade relations of New Zealand with other countries

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is the public service department of New Zealand charged with advising the government on foreign and trade policy, and promoting New Zealand's interests in trade and international relations.


The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Winston Peters, who has held the position since 2017.

Winston Peters New Zealand politician

Winston Raymond Peters is a New Zealand politician who has served since 2017 as the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was previously Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998. Peters has led the populist New Zealand First party since its foundation in 1993. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2011, having previously served from 1979 to 1981 and 1984 to 2008.

Responsibilities and powers

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for overseeing New Zealand's relations with foreign countries and the promotion of New Zealand's interests abroad. [2] The Minister is in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including New Zealand's diplomatic staff. The office is often considered to be one of the more distinguished ministerial posts, and has at times been counted as the most senior role below that of the Prime Minister. In terms of actual political power, however, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not as prominent as in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the Minister of Finance being considerably more influential.

Foreign relations of New Zealand Overview of relations

The foreign relations of New Zealand are oriented chiefly toward developed democratic nations and emerging Pacific economies. The country’s major political parties have generally agreed on the broad outlines of foreign policy, and the current coalition government has been active in promoting free trade, nuclear disarmament, and arms control.

Diplomat person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization

A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.

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.

Historically, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been a member of Cabinet, with the exception of the Rt Hon. Winston Peters between 2005 and 2008. This situation came about as the result of coalition negotiations in which it was agreed that New Zealand First would take a senior ministerial portfolio but would not join Cabinet.

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.


The first New Zealand foreign minister was James Allen, appointed to the post of "Minister of External Affairs" by William Massey in 1919. Before this time, there was no dedicated ministerial portfolio for foreign relations. A Department of External Affairs was created in 1919 but its functions were limited to administering New Zealand's Island Territories in the Pacific; namely the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the League of Nations Mandate of Samoa. [3] In 1943, a new Department of External Affairs was created to conduct the country's external relations. The older department was then renamed the Department of Island Territories and a separate portfolio called the Minister of Island Territories was subsequently created. [4]

James Allen (New Zealand politician) New Zealand politician and diplomat

Sir James Allen was a prominent New Zealand politician and diplomat. He held a number of the most important political offices in the country, including Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was also New Zealand's Minister of Defence during World War I.

William Massey Prime Minister of New Zealand

William Ferguson Massey, commonly known as Bill Massey, was a politician who served as the 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand from May 1912 to May 1925. He was the founding leader of the Reform Party, New Zealand's second organised political party, from 1909 until his death.

Cook Islands Island country in the South Pacific Ocean

The Cook Islands is a self-governing island country in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand. It comprises 15 islands whose total land area is 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq mi). The Cook Islands' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq mi) of ocean.

From 1943, the Minister of External Affairs became the main ministerial portfolio for conducting New Zealand's external relations. [5] Like its similarly named Australian and Canadian counterparts, the portfolio was called "External Affairs" rather than "Foreign Affairs" in deference of the British Government’s responsibility for conducting foreign policy on behalf of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations. [6] The title was changed to "Minister of Foreign Affairs" in 1970 after the Department was renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The title became "Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade" following the abandonment of the short-lived "Minister of External Relations and Trade" title, created in September 1988 when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs absorbed the Trade functions of the old Department of Trade and Industry. In 2005 responsibility for trade was split into a separate portfolio, with the title reverting to "Minister of Foreign Affairs".

The Department of External Affairs was an Australian government department that existed between December 1921 and November 1970.

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.

Commonwealth of Nations Intergovernmental organisation

The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth, and historically the British Commonwealth, is a unique political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.

Historically it has been common for Prime Ministers to take on the role of Foreign Minister themselves, particularly if they have an interest in the field. Several New Zealand Prime Ministers including Peter Fraser, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and David Lange held the External Affairs portfolio. [5] The most recent Prime Minister to do this is Helen Clark in 2008 as Acting Minister, and prior to her was Mike Moore, in 1990. Thirteen Prime Ministers have served as Foreign Minister for all or part of their terms.

New Zealand has had 27 foreign ministers (regardless of exact title). The longest-serving was Keith Holyoake, who held the post for the duration of his 11-year premiership. The second longest-serving, and the longest-serving who was not also Prime Minister, was Don McKinnon, who became Commonwealth Secretary-General.

List of Ministers of Foreign Affairs


   Reform    United    Labour    National    NZ First

No.NamePortraitTerm of officePrime Minister
1 James Allen James Allen portrait.jpg 24 November 191928 April 1920 Massey
2 Ernest Lee Ernest Lee.jpg 17 May 192013 January 1923
3 Francis Bell Francis Bell.jpg 7 June 192318 January 1926
4 William Nosworthy William Nosworthy.jpg 24 May 192624 August 1928
5 Gordon Coates Joseph Gordon Coates, 1931.jpg 25 August 192810 December 1928
6 Joseph Ward Joseph Ward c. 1906.jpg 10 December 192828 May 1930 Ward
7 George Forbes George William Forbes.jpg 28 May 19306 December 1935 Forbes
8 Michael Joseph Savage Michael Joseph Savage Portrait.jpg 6 December 193527 March 1940 Savage
9 Frank Langstone Frank Langstone.jpg 1 April 194021 December 1942 Fraser
10 Peter Fraser Peter Fraser.jpg 7 July 194313 December 1949
11 Frederick Doidge Frederick Doidge.jpg 13 December 194919 September 1951 Holland
12 Clifton Webb Clifton Webb.jpg 19 September 195126 November 1954
13 Tom Macdonald Thomas Lachlan Macdonald.jpg 26 November 195412 December 1957
14 Walter Nash Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg 12 December 195712 December 1960 Nash
15 Keith Holyoake Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg 12 December 19608 December 1972 Holyoake
16 Norman Kirk Norman Kirk Portrait.jpg 8 December 197231 August 1974 Kirk
17 Bill Rowling Bill Rowling, 1962.jpg 6 September 197412 December 1975 Rowling
18 Brian Talboys Brian Talboys.jpg 12 December 197511 December 1981 Muldoon
19 Warren Cooper Warren Cooper 1983.jpg 11 December 198126 July 1984
20 David Lange David Lange (cropped).jpg 26 July 198424 August 1987 Lange
21 Russell Marshall Russell Marshall.jpg 24 August 19879 February 1990
22 Mike Moore Mike Moore, 1992.jpg 9 February 19902 November 1990
23 Don McKinnon Don McKinnon (cropped).jpg 2 November 199010 December 1999 Bolger
24 Phil Goff Phil Goff.jpg 10 December 199919 October 2005 Clark
25 Winston Peters Winston Peters, 2011.jpg 19 October 200529 August 2008
Helen Clark
Acting Minister
Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg 29 August 200819 November 2008
26 Murray McCully Murray McCully November 2016.jpg 19 November 20082 May 2017 Key
27 Gerry Brownlee Gerry Brownlee Crop.jpg 2 May 201726 October 2017
(25) Winston Peters Winston Peters, 2011.jpg 26 October 2017Incumbent Ardern

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  2. "Ministerial Portfolio: Foreign Affairs". The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  3. "External Affairs Bill", in New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 185 (3 October5 November 1919), p.337.
  4. Malcolm Templeton, An Eye, an Ear, and a Voice: 50 years in New Zealand's External Relations, 1943-1993, p.1.
  5. 1 2 Malcolm Templeton, ed., An Eye, An Ear, And a Voice, pp.1-2.
  6. Alan Watt, "The Department of Foreign Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World,Department of External Affairs (1921–70) ed. Zara Steiner (London: Times Books Limited, 1982), p.35; James Eary, "The Department of External Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World, p.96.