New Zealand Parliament
|Houses||House of Representatives|
|Founded||24 May 1854 (first sitting)|
since 8 September 2022
since 21 October 2021
House of Representatives political groups
| Government (64)|
In co-operation with (10)
Official Opposition (33)
House of Representatives voting system
|Mixed-member proportional representation|
House of Representatives last election
|17 October 2020|
House of Representatives next election
|On or before 13 January 2024|
|Parliament House, Wellington|
The New Zealand Parliament (Māori : Pāremata Aotearoa) is the unicameral legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the King of New Zealand (King-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The King is usually represented by his governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The New Zealand Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world. It has met in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, since 1865.
The House of Representatives normally consists of 120 members of Parliament (MPs), though sometimes more due to overhang seats. There are 72 MPs elected directly in electorates while the remainder of seats are assigned to list MPs based on each party's share of the total party vote. Māori were represented in Parliament from 1867, and in 1893 women gained the vote.Although elections can be called early, each three years Parliament is dissolved and goes up for reelection.
Parliament is supreme over all other government institutions. The legislature is closely linked to the executive. The New Zealand Government comprises a prime minister (head of government) and other ministers. In accordance with the principle of responsible government, these individuals are always drawn from the House of Representatives, and are held accountable to it.
Neither the monarch (currently King Charles III) nor his governor-general participates in the legislative process, save for signifying the King's approval to a bill passed by the House, known as the granting of Royal Assent, which is necessary for a bill to be enacted as law. The governor-general also formally summons and dissolves Parliament – the latter in order to call a general election.
The New Zealand Parliament is consciously modelled on the Westminster system of parliamentary representation, developed in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This system can be traced back to the "Model Parliament" of 1295.
Over the centuries, parliaments progressively limited the power of the monarchy. The Bill of Rights 1688 (which has been ratified as law in New Zealand)established a system where parliaments would be regularly elected. Among its provisions, it set out parliament's role in taxation and supply. The Bill of Rights also confirmed absolute freedom of speech in parliament.
As early as 1846 the British settlers in New Zealand petitioned for self-government.The New Zealand Parliament was created by the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, an Act of the British Parliament, which established a bicameral legislature officially named the General Assembly, but usually referred to as Parliament. It had a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the Legislative Council. The members of the House were elected under the first-past-the-post (FPP) voting system, while those of the Council were appointed by the governor. The first members were sworn in on 24 May 1854 in Auckland.
Initially, legislative councillors were appointed for life, but from the 1890s they were appointed for renewable seven-year terms.This change, coupled with responsible government (whereby the premier advised the governor on Council appointments) and party politics, meant that by the 20th century, the government usually controlled the Council as well as the House, and the passage of bills through the upper house became a formality. In 1951, the Council was ended altogether, making the New Zealand legislature unicameral. The Council sat for the last time on 1 December 1950, before it was formally abolished on 1 January 1951.
At the time of its abolition the upper house had fifty-four members, including its own speaker.
Under the Constitution Act, legislative power was also conferred on New Zealand's provinces (originally six in number), each of which had its own elected provincial council.These provincial councils were able to legislate for their provinces on most subjects. New Zealand was never a federation comparable to Canada or Australia; Parliament could legislate concurrently with the provinces on any matter, and in the event of a conflict, the law passed by Parliament would prevail. Over a twenty-year period, political power was progressively centralised, and the provinces were abolished altogether in 1876.
New Zealand had representatives of the indigenous population in its Parliament from an early date, in contrast to many other colonial states. Reserved Māori seats were created in 1867 during the term of the 4th Parliament;Māori men aged 21 and over, whether or not they owned property, could vote to elect four Māori members of the House of Representatives.
The Māori electorates have lasted far longer than the intended five years. In 2002, the seats increased in number to seven.
One historical speciality of the New Zealand Parliament was the country quota, which gave greater representation to rural politics. From 1889 on (and even earlier in more informal forms), districts were weighted according to their urban/rural split (with any locality of less than 2,000 people considered rural). Those districts which had large rural proportions received a greater number of nominal votes than they actually contained voters – as an example, in 1927, Waipawa, a district without any urban population at all, received an additional 4,153 nominal votes to its actual 14,838 – having the maximum factor of 28% extra representation. The country quota was in effect until it was abolished in 1945 by a mostly urban-elected Labour government, which switched to a one-vote-per-person system.
Originally the New Zealand Parliament remained subordinate to the British Parliament, the supreme legislative authority for the entire British Empire—although, in practice, Britain's role was minimal from the 1890s.The New Zealand Parliament received progressively more control over New Zealand affairs through the passage of Imperial (British) laws such as the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, constitutional amendments, and an increasingly hands-off approach by the British government. In 1947, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act, giving that parliament full power over New Zealand law, and the New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947, an Act of the British Parliament, allowed the New Zealand Parliament to regulate its own composition. In 1973 a further amendment, the New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1973, expanded the territorial jurisdiction of New Zealand's parliament.
In 1986 a new Constitution Act was passed, finally removing the power for the British Parliament to pass laws affecting New Zealand (which was by then only with New Zealand's consent), restating the few remaining provisions of the 1852 Act, consolidating the legislation establishing Parliament, and officially replacing the name "General Assembly" with "Parliament".
Beginning in the 1890s, when the New Zealand Liberal Party was established as the first formal political party in New Zealand, political power shifted from the House of Representatives to elections, parties and leaders. The conservative Reform Party was formed in 1909, and the New Zealand Labour Party in 1916. The New Zealand National Party emerged in 1936 from the amalgamation of Reform and a remnant of the Liberals, the United Party.As of the 2020 general election, the current parties represented in the House of Representatives are National, Labour, the Greens, ACT, and the Māori Party.
Labour Member of Parliament Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan was the longest-serving female MP (1967–1996) and was also the first MP to give birth while serving in office. National MP Ruth Richardson was the first MP to bring her baby into the debating chamber while fellow National MP Katherine Rich was the first MP to feed her baby in the House. During the 1990s, a child care centre was established for the children of MPs and parliamentary staff.In November 2017, the Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard announced that Parliament would becoming more "baby friendly." Family friendly policies have included making an atrium near the parliamentary chamber accessible to MP's children, giving carers and spouses the same security clearances as MPs, opening the Parliamentary swimming pool to the families of MPs and staff, and updating the family room to have baby-feeding and changing facilities, and a play area on Parliament's lawn.
On 10 February 2021, Mallard announced that ties were no longer compulsory in Parliament following a Standing Orders meeting where the majority voted in favour of the Māori Party's submission calling for the elimination of neckties as part of Parliament's compulsory business attire. This announcement followed an argument between Mallard and Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who had been ejected from Parliament for refusing to wear a neck tie in favour of Māori business attire.
The New Zealand Parliament is supreme, with no other government institution able to over-ride its decisions.The ability of Parliament to act is, legally, unimpeded. For example, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 is a normal piece of legislation, not superior law, as codified constitutions are in some other countries.
The House of Representatives has the exclusive power to regulate its own procedures. The House has "entrenched" certain issues relating to elections. These include the length of a parliamentary term, deciding on who can vote, how they vote (via secret ballot), how the country should be divided into electorates, and the make-up of the Representation Commission, which decides on these electorates.These issues require either 75% of all MPs to support the bill or a referendum on the issue. As the entrenchment mechanism is not entrenched itself, it could be repealed by a simple majority, thus allowing the entrenched provisions of the Electoral Act to also be repealed by a simple majority.
The monarch of New Zealand – currently King Charles III, represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General, Dame Cindy Kiro – is one of the components of Parliament. This results from the role of the monarch to sign into law (give Royal Assent to) the bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives.MPs must express their loyalty to the King and defer to his authority, as the Oath of Allegiance must be recited by all new parliamentarians before they may take their seat, and the official opposition is traditionally dubbed His Majesty's Loyal Opposition .
The House of Representatives was established as a lower house and has been the Parliament's sole house since 1951.Since the introduction of MMP in 1996, the House consists of 120 members of Parliament (MPs), elected to a three-year term. Parliamentary elections use the mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, a hybrid of first-past-the-post and closed party-list proportional representation; 71 MPs represent single-member electorates of roughly the same population, while the remainder are list MPs. These MPs assemble to represent the people, pass laws and supervise the work of government. Members also form select committees of the House, appointed to deal with particular areas or issues.
Ministers in the New Zealand Government are drawn from amongst the members of the House of Representatives (with the possible exception of brief periods following an election).The government of the day, and by extension the prime minister, must achieve and maintain the support of the House in order to gain and remain in power. The Government is dependent on Parliament to implement its legislative agenda, and has always required the House's approval to spend money.
The Parliament does not have an upper house; there was an upper house up to 1951, and there have been occasional suggestions to create a new one.The Legislative Council chamber continues to be used during the Opening of Parliament. This is in keeping with the British tradition in which the monarch is barred from entering the lower house.
The original Legislative Council was created by the Charter for Erecting the Colony of New Zealand on 16 November 1840,which saw New Zealand established as a Crown colony separate from New South Wales on 1 July 1841. Originally, the Legislative Council consisted of the governor, colonial secretary and colonial treasurer (who comprised the Executive Council), and three justices of the peace appointed by the governor. The Legislative Council had the power to issue Ordinances (statutory instruments).
With the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, the Legislative Council became the upper house of the General Assembly. The Legislative Council was intended to scrutinise and amend bills passed by the House of Representatives, although it could not initiate legislation or amend money bills. Despite occasional proposals for an elected Council, members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) were appointed by the governor, generally on the recommendation of the prime minister.It was eventually decided that the Council was having no significant impact on New Zealand's legislative process; its final sitting was on 1 December 1950.
In September 1950, the National government of Sidney Holland set up a constitutional reform committee to consider an alternative second chamber, chaired by Ronald Algie. A report produced by the committee in 1952 proposed a nominated Senate, with 32 members, appointed by leaders of the parties in the House of Representatives according to the parties' strength in that House. Senators would serve for three-year-terms, and be eligible for reappointment.The Senate would have the power to revise, initiate or delay legislation, to hear petitions, and to scrutinise regulations and Orders in Council, but the proposal was rejected by the Prime Minister and by the Labour opposition, which had refused to nominate members to the committee.
After the 1990 election, the National government of Jim Bolger proposed the establishment of an elected Senate, thereby reinstating a bicameral system, and a Senate Bill was drafted. Under the Bill, the Senate would have 30 members, elected by STV, from six senatorial districts, four in the North Island and two in the South Island. Like the old Legislative Council it would not have powers to amend or delay money bills.The intention was to include a question on a Senate in the second referendum on electoral reform. Voters would be asked, if they did not want a new voting system, whether or not they wanted a Senate. However, following objections from the Labour opposition, which derided it as a red herring, and other supporters of the mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system, the Senate question was removed by the Select Committee on Electoral Reform.
In 2010, the New Zealand Policy Unit of the Centre for Independent Studies proposed a Senate in the context of the 2011 referendum on MMP. They proposed a proportionally-elected upper house made up 31 seats elected using a proportional list vote by region, with the House of Representatives elected by FPP and consisting of 79 seats.
A term of Parliament in New Zealand may not last more than three years. The Constitution Act 1986 outlines that the governor-general is responsible for dissolving Parliament,which is done by royal proclamation. Dissolution ends a parliamentary term, after which the writs for a general election are usually issued. Upon completion of the election, the governor-general, on the advice of the prime minister, then issues a proclamation summoning Parliament to assemble. On the date given, new MPs are sworn in and then are, along with returning MPs, called to the old Legislative Council chamber, where they are instructed to elect their speaker and return to the House of Representatives to do so before adjourning.
A new parliamentary session is marked by the Opening of Parliament, during which the governor-general reads the Speech from the Throne, on the Queen's behalf. This speech is given at the start of every new Parliament, and explains why Parliament has been assembled. It outlines the Government's legislative agenda.On occasion, the monarch may open Parliament and deliver the speech herself; for example, the Queen has personally attended the Opening of Parliament in 1954 (to mark the legislature's centenary), and more recently in 1986 and 1990.
MPs receive the Royal Summons to these events from the usher of the Black Rod, after he or she knocks on the doors of the House of Representatives chamber that have been slammed shut, to illustrate the MPs' right to deny entry to anyone, including the monarch.
Before any law is passed, it is first introduced in Parliament as a draft known as a bill.The majority of bills are promulgated by the government of the day. It is rare for government bills to be defeated (the first to be defeated in the 20th century was in 1998). It is also possible for individual MPs to promote their own bills, called members' bills; these are usually put forward by opposition parties, or by MPs who wish to deal with a matter that parties do not take positions on. All bills must go through three readings in the House of Representatives before receiving Royal Assent to become an Act of Parliament (statutory law).
Each bill goes through several stages before it becomes a law. The first stage is the first reading, where MPs debate the bill in principle. It is normally sent to a select committee where the public has the opportunity to make submissions on the bill and the committee can recommend amendments to the bill. The select committee stage is followed by the second reading, where MPs again debate the bill in principle and the select committee recommendations. This is followed by the committee of the whole house, where MPs debate individual clauses or parts and make amendments. In the third reading, MPs debate the final form of the bill. If a majority of MPs vote in favour of the bill at its third reading, the bill is passed. If a majority of MPs vote against the bill at any reading, the bill is rejected and goes no further through the process.
If a bill passes its third reading, it is passed by the clerk of the House of Representatives to the governor-general, who will (assuming constitutional conventions are followed) grant Royal Assent as a matter of course. Some constitutional lawyers, such as Professor Philip Joseph, believe the governor-general does retain the power to refuse Royal Assent to bills in exceptional circumstances – specifically if democracy were to be abolished.Others, such as former law professor and Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Professor Matthew Palmer argue any refusal of Royal Assent would cause a constitutional crisis.
As a practical reality, because the Royal Assent to a bill must follow quickly after its passage by the House of Representatives, if there is any substantial issue about the constitutional validity of a bill, the issue must be considered by the attorney-general before the bill is introduced into the House.
Parliament is currently in its 53rd term.
|1st Parliament||1853 election||Non-partisan|
|2nd Parliament||1855 election|
|3rd Parliament||1860 election|
|4th Parliament||1866 election|
|5th Parliament||1871 election|
|6th Parliament||1875 election|
|7th Parliament||1879 election|
|8th Parliament||1881 election|
|9th Parliament||1884 election|
|10th Parliament||1887 election|
|Liberal Party era|
|11th Parliament||1890 election||Liberal|
|12th Parliament||1893 election|
|13th Parliament||1896 election|
|14th Parliament||1899 election|
|15th Parliament||1902 election|
|16th Parliament||1905 election|
|17th Parliament||1908 election|
|18th Parliament||1911 election||Reform|
|19th Parliament||1914 election|
|20th Parliament||1919 election|
|21st Parliament||1922 election|
|22nd Parliament||1925 election|
|23rd Parliament||1928 election||United|
|24th Parliament||1931 election||United–Reform coalition|
|25th Parliament||1935 election||First Labour|
|26th Parliament||1938 election||First Labour|
|27th Parliament||1943 election|
|28th Parliament||1946 election|
|29th Parliament||1949 election||First National|
|30th Parliament||1951 election|
|31st Parliament||1954 election|
|32nd Parliament||1957 election||Second Labour|
|33rd Parliament||1960 election||Second National|
|34th Parliament||1963 election|
|35th Parliament||1966 election|
|36th Parliament||1969 election|
|37th Parliament||1972 election||Third Labour|
|38th Parliament||1975 election||Third National|
|39th Parliament||1978 election|
|40th Parliament||1981 election|
|41st Parliament||1984 election||Fourth Labour|
|42nd Parliament||1987 election|
|43rd Parliament||1990 election||Fourth National|
|44th Parliament||1993 election|
|Mixed-member proportional (MMP) era|
|45th Parliament||1996 election||Fourth National (in coalition)|
|46th Parliament||1999 election||Fifth Labour (in coalition)|
|47th Parliament||2002 election|
|48th Parliament||2005 election|
|49th Parliament||2008 election||Fifth National (minority)|
|50th Parliament||2011 election|
|51st Parliament||2014 election|
|52nd Parliament||2017 election||Sixth Labour (in coalition)|
|53rd Parliament||2020 election||Sixth Labour|
The politics of New Zealand function within a framework of a unitary parliamentary representative democracy. The structure of government is based on the Westminster system, and the legal system is modelled on the common law of England. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy, in which King Charles III is the sovereign and head of state.
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and is composed of three parts: the King, the Senate, and the House of Commons. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and may initiate certain bills. The monarch or his representative, normally the governor general, provides royal assent to make bills into law.
The House of Representatives is the sole chamber of the New Zealand Parliament. The House passes laws, provides ministers to form Cabinet, and supervises the work of government. It is also responsible for adopting the state's budgets and approving the state's accounts.
New Zealand is a representative democracy in which members of the unicameral New Zealand Parliament gain their seats through elections. General elections are usually held every three years; they may be held at an earlier date at the discretion of the prime minister, although it usually only happens in the event of a vote of no confidence or other exceptional circumstances. A by-election is held to fill an electorate vacancy arising during a parliamentary term. The most recent general election took place on 17 October 2020.
In New Zealand politics, Māori electorates, colloquially known as the Māori seats, are a special category of electorate that give reserved positions to representatives of Māori in the New Zealand Parliament. Every area in New Zealand is covered by both a general and a Māori electorate; as of 2020, there are seven Māori electorates. Since 1967, candidates in Māori electorates have not needed to be Māori themselves, but to register as a voter in the Māori electorates people need to declare that they are of Māori descent.
The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria that follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system. It consists of the King, represented by the Governor of Victoria, the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. It has a fused executive drawn from members of both chambers. The parliament meets at Parliament House in the state capital Melbourne. The current Parliament was elected on 24 November 2018, sworn in on 19 December 2018 and is the 59th parliament in Victoria.
The New Zealand Legislative Council was the upper house of the General Assembly of New Zealand between 1853 and 1951. An earlier arrangement of legislative councils for the colony and provinces existed from 1841 when New Zealand became a colony; it was reconstituted as the upper house of a bicameral legislature when New Zealand became self-governing in 1852, which came into effect in the following year.
In New Zealand, waka-jumping is a colloquial term for when a member of Parliament (MP) switches political party between elections, taking their parliamentary seat with them and potentially upsetting electoral proportionality in the New Zealand Parliament. In 2001 legislation was enacted that required list MPs to leave Parliament if they waka-jumped; this law expired after the 2005 election. In 2018 a similar law was passed which requires a defecting MP to give up their seat on the request of their former party leader. Electorate MPs may re-contest their seat in a by-election, whereas list MPs are replaced by the next available person on the party list.
An electorate or electoral district is a geographical constituency used for electing a member (MP) to the New Zealand Parliament. The size of electorates is determined such that all electorates have approximately the same population.
The constitution of New Zealand is the sum of laws and principles that determine the political governance of New Zealand. Unlike many other nations, New Zealand has no single constitutional document. It is an uncodified constitution, sometimes referred to as an "unwritten constitution", although the New Zealand constitution is in fact an amalgamation of written and unwritten sources. The Constitution Act 1986 has a central role, alongside a collection of other statutes, orders in Council, letters patent, decisions of the courts, principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and unwritten traditions and conventions. There is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and law considered "constitutional law"; no law is accorded higher status. In most cases the New Zealand Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing acts of Parliament, and thus has the power to change or abolish elements of the constitution. There are some exceptions to this though – the Electoral Act 1993 requires certain provisions can only be amended following a referendum.
The New Zealand electoral system has been mixed-member proportional (MMP) since the 1996 election. MMP was introduced following a referendum in 1993. It replaced the first-past-the-post (FPP) system New Zealand had previously used for most of its history. New Zealanders elect their members of parliament (MPs) with two votes. The first vote is for a candidate from an electorate. The second vote is used to elect ranked party lists.
The Parliament of Tuvalu is the unicameral national legislature of Tuvalu. The place at which the parliament sits is called the Vaiaku maneapa. The maneapa on each island is an open meeting place where the chiefs and elders deliberate and make decisions.
The Parliament of the Cook Islands is the legislature of the Cook Islands. Originally established under New Zealand’s United Nations mandate it became the national legislature on independence in 1965.
The governor-general of New Zealand is the viceregal representative of the monarch of New Zealand, currently King Charles III. As the King is concurrently the monarch of 14 other Commonwealth realms and lives in the United Kingdom, he, on the advice of his New Zealand prime minister, appoints a governor-general to carry out his constitutional and ceremonial duties within the Realm of New Zealand.
The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that granted self-government to the Colony of New Zealand. It was the second such Act, the previous 1846 Act not having been fully implemented.
The New Zealand Government is the central government through which political authority is exercised in New Zealand. As in most other 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". The Cabinet Manual describes the main laws, rules and conventions affecting the conduct and operation of the Government.
Voting in New Zealand was introduced after colonisation by British settlers. The New Zealand Constitution Act was passed in 1852, and the first parliamentary elections were held the following year.
The first Māori elections were held in 1868 in four newly formed Māori electorates during the term of 4th Parliament.
The Constitution Act 1986 is an Act of the New Zealand Parliament that forms a major part of the constitution of New Zealand. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles of governance, and establishes the powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state. It outlines the roles and duties of the Monarch, the Governor-General, ministers and judges. The Act repealed and replaced the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 and the Statute of Westminster, and removed the ability of the British Parliament to pass laws for New Zealand with the consent of the New Zealand Parliament.
The 53rd New Zealand Parliament is the current session of Parliament in New Zealand. It opened on 25 November 2020 following the 17 October 2020 general election, and will expire on or before 20 November 2023 to trigger the next election. It consists of 120 members of Parliament (MPs) with five parties represented: the Labour and Green parties, in government, and the National, Māori and ACT parties, in opposition. The Sixth Labour Government has a majority in this Parliament, with Jacinda Ardern as prime minister.
The General Assembly shall have full power to make laws having effect in, or in respect of, New Zealand or any part thereof and laws having effect outside New Zealand.
During her first eagerly awaited tour over the summer of 1953–54 Parliament was summoned for a special short session in January to allow her to open Parliament and deliver the Speech from the Throne. She again opened a special session of Parliament in February 1963. She also opened Parliament in March 1970 and February 1974. In February 1977 she opened another special session at the same time as formally opening the Beehive (the Executive Wing). More recently she has opened Parliament in February 1986 and February 1990.