New Zealand Government and Politics

New Zealand is a unified state, parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. The country achieved full independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, but continues as a member of the Commonwealth and recognizes the British Queen as the country’s head of state. The Queen is represented by a Governor General.

New Zealand Country Flag

The political system is strongly influenced by English state custom. Thus, New Zealand does not have a written constitution, but instead a series of parliamentary acts. In addition, British precedents and established conventions play an important role. As in Britain, the prime minister is the leader of the majority party in parliament, and the other ministers must also sit in parliament. The prime minister is the real political leader of the country. Parliament (House of Representatives) has 120 seats; 69 are elected in single person circles – seven of which are reserved Maori circles – and 51 in relationship choices from party lists. The representatives are elected for three years, but the parliament can be dissolved before the end of the period. Relationships were introduced in 1996; it has created a real multi-party system and made coalition governments relevant.

Administrative division

New Zealand is divided into 16 regions and one territory. The local government has added a rather complicated system of geographical and functional units, each with their own chosen advice. Local self-government is characterized by traditions of voluntary community efforts and represents a counterbalance to the bureaucratizing and standardizing state government.


The judiciary is also British in character. The courts are organized on three levels, with district courts, a “High Court” and the Supreme Court of Appeal. The lower courts have wide jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. Court number two deals with serious criminal cases as well as civil cases involving large sums of money. It is also a final appeal to the UK’s Privy Council. The courts are independent. The legislation is characterized by English models with certain special laws and courts of indigenous people.

Prime Ministers of New Zealand

Prime Ministers of New Zealand since 1935:

Period Prime minister
1935-1940 Michael Joseph Savage (L)
1940-1949 Peter Fraser (L)
1949-1957 Sidney Holland (N)
1957 Keith Jacka Holyoake (N)
1957-1960 Walter Nash (L)
1960-1972 Keith Jacka Holyoake (N)
1972 John Ross Marshall (N)
1972-1974 Norman Eric Kirk (L)
1974-1975 Wallace Edward Rowling (L)
1975-1984 Robert David Muldoon (N)
1984-1989 David Russell Lange (L)
1989-1990 Geoffrey Palmer (L)
1990 Mike Moore (L)
1990-1997 Jim Bolger (N)
1997-1999 Jenny Shipley (N)
1999-2008 Helen Clark (L)
2008-2016 John Key (N)
2016-2017 Bill English (N)
2017- Jacinda Ardern (L)
  • N = National Party
  • L = Labor Party

New Zealand Head of Government

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