Cabinet of New Zealand

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand

The Cabinet of New Zealand (Māori: Te Rūnanga o te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa) is a council of senior Ministers of the Crown, responsible to the New Zealand Parliament. Cabinet meetings, chaired by the Prime Minister, occur once a week where vital issues are discussed and government policy formulated. The Cabinet has significant power in the New Zealand political system and nearly all bills proposed by the Cabinet in Parliament are enacted.

All Cabinet ministers also serve as members of the Executive Council. Outside the Cabinet, there is an outer ministry and also a number of non-Cabinet ministers, responsible for a specific policy area and reporting directly to a senior Cabinet minister.

Legislative basis

No legislative act established the Cabinet: rather, it exists purely by constitutional convention. This convention carries sufficient weight for many official declarations and regulations to refer to the Cabinet, and a government department exists with responsibility for supporting it (the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet). Although Cabinet lacks any direct legislative framework for its existence, the Cabinet Manual has become the official document which governs its functions, and on which its convention rests.[1]

The structure of Cabinet has as its basis the formal institution known as the Executive Council. Most Ministers hold membership of both bodies, but some Executive Councillors – known as "ministers outside Cabinet" – do not have Cabinet positions. The convention of members of the Executive Council meeting separately from the Governor began during Edward Stafford's first tenure as Premier (1856–1861). Stafford, a long-time advocate of responsible government in New Zealand, believed the colonial government should have full control over all its affairs, without the intervention of the Governor. Because the Governor chaired the Executive Council, Stafford intentionally met with his ministers without the Governor present.


All ministers have the style of "The Honourable", except for the Prime Minister, who is styled "The Right Honourable".[2]


The lack of formal legislation establishing Cabinet leaves the powers of its members only loosely defined. The Cabinet generally directs and controls policy (releasing government policy statements) and is responsible to Parliament. It also has significant influence over lawmaking. Convention regarding the Cabinet's authority has considerable force, and generally proves strong enough to bind its participants. Theoretically, each minister operates independently, having received a ministerial warrant over a certain field from the Crown (represented by the Governor-General). But the Governor-General can dismiss a minister at any time, conventionally on the advice of the Prime Minister, so ministers are largely obliged to work within a certain framework.

Cabinet itself acts as the accepted forum for establishing this framework. Ministers will jointly discuss the policy which the government as a whole will pursue, and ministers who do not exercise their respective powers in a manner compatible with Cabinet's decision risk losing those powers. This has become known as the doctrine of collective responsibility.[3] Problems arise when the Prime Minister breaches collective responsibility. Since ministerial appointments and dismissals are in practice in the hands of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet can not directly initiate any action against a Prime Minister who openly disagrees with his government's policy. On the other hand, a Prime Minister who tries to act against concerted opposition from his Cabinet risks losing the confidence of his party colleagues. An example is former Prime Minister David Lange, who publicly spoke against a tax reform package which was sponsored by then-Finance Minister Roger Douglas and supported by Cabinet. Lange dismissed Douglas, but when the Cabinet supported Douglas against Lange, Lange himself resigned as Prime Minister.


The Ministers of the Fifth Labour Government in 2005, with then Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, 20 October 2005.

The Cabinet typically meets weekly in the Beehive (the executive wing of the Parliament Buildings),[2] where it discusses important political issues. The Prime Minister usually chairs the meeting and sets the agenda.


A Cabinet Committee comprises a subset of the larger Cabinet, consisting of a number of ministers who have responsibility in related areas of policy. Cabinet Committees go into considerably more detail than can be achieved at regular Cabinet meetings, discussing issues which do not need the input of ministers holding unrelated portfolios.

Cabinet Committees will often discuss matters referred to them by Cabinet itself, and then report back the results of their deliberation. This can sometimes become a powerful tool for advancing certain policies, as was demonstrated in the Lange government. Roger Douglas, Minister of Finance, and his allies succeeded in dominating the finance committee, enabling them to determine what it recommended to Cabinet. The official recommendation of the finance committee was much harder for his opponents to fight than his individual claims in Cabinet would be. Douglas was able to pass measures that, had Cabinet deliberated on them itself rather than pass them to Committee, would have been defeated.

Portfolios represented

Currently, significant ministers include:

Other ministers (some outside Cabinet) include:

Members and other ministers

The tables below list New Zealand's cabinet ministers and ministers outside Cabinet as of December 2015.

Party Key National Party
United Future NZ
Māori Party

Cabinet Ministers

Portfolio and Responsibilities Incumbent Contact Phone Number[4]
Prime Minister
Minister for National Security and Intelligence
Minister of Tourism
Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services
The Rt. Hon. John Key MP
  • (04) 817 6800 (Parliament)
  • (09) 412 2496 (Helensville)
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Finance
Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation
The Hon. Bill English MP
  • (04) 817 6801 (Parliament)
Leader of the House
Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Minister of Defence
Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
The Hon. Gerry Brownlee MP
  • (04) 817 9853 (Parliament)
  • (03) 359 0582 (Ilam)
Minister for Economic Development
Minister for Regulatory Reform
Minister of Science and Innovation
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
Minister Responsible for Novopay
Associate Minister of Finance
The Hon. Steven Joyce MP
  • (04) 817 6813 (Parliament)
Minister for Climate Change Issues
Minister for Social Housing
Minister of State Services
Associate Minister of Finance
Associate Minister of Tourism
The Hon. Paula Bennett MP
  • (04) 817 6815 (Parliament)
  • (09) 838 8161 (Waitakere)
Minister of Health
Minister for Sport and Recreation
The Hon. Dr Jonathan Coleman MP
  • (04) 817 6818 (Parliament)
  • (09) 419 8021 (Northcote)
Minister of Justice
Minister for Courts
Minister of Broadcasting
Minister for Communications
The Hon. Amy Adams MP
  • (04) 817 9910 (Parliament)
  • (03) 344 0418 (Selwyn)
Attorney General
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
Minister in Charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service
Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau
Associate Minister for Māori Development
The Hon. Chris Finlayson QC MP
  • (04) 817 6808 (Parliament)
  • (04) 801 6130 (Rongotai)
Minister of Energy and Resources
Minister of Transport
Deputy Leader of the House
Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues
Associate Minister of Justice
The Hon. Simon Bridges MP
  • (04) 817 6835 (Parliament)
  • (07) 579 9016 (Tauranga)
Minister of Education The Hon. Hekia Parata MP
  • (04) 817 6829 (Parliament)
  • (04) 237 0746 (Mana)
Minister for Social Development The Hon. Anne Tolley MP
  • (04) 817 6807 (Parliament)
  • (06) 867 7571 (Gisborne)
  • (07) 307 1254 (Whakatane)
Minister for the Environment
Minister for Building and Housing
The Hon. Dr Nick Smith MP
  • (04) 817 6805 (Parliament)
  • (03) 547 2314 (Nelson)
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Associate Minister for Sport and Recreation
The Hon. Murray McCully CNZM MP
  • (04) 817 6810 (Parliament)
  • (09) 478 0207 (East Coast Bays)
Minister of Corrections
Minister of Police
The Hon. Judith Collins MP
  • (04) 817 6806 (Parliament)
  • (09) 299 7426 (Papakura)
Minister for Primary Industries
Minister for Racing
The Hon. Nathan Guy MP
  • (04) 817 6821 (Parliament)
  • (06) 367 9110 (Levin)
  • (04) 298 2906 (Paraparaumu)
Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation
Minister of Civil Defence
Minister for Youth
Associate Minister of Education
The Hon. Nikki Kaye MP
  • (04) 817 6837 (Parliament)
  • (09) 378 2088 (Auckland Central)
Minister of Immigration
Minister of Revenue
Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
The Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP
  • (04) 817 6836 (Parliament)
  • (03) 477 7330 (Dunedin)
Minister of State Owned Enterprises
Minister of Trade
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Hon. Todd McClay MP
  • (04) 817 8230 (Parliament)
  • (07) 348 5871 (Rotorua)
  • (07) 323 6487 (Kawerau)
  • (07) 573 7125 (Te Puke)
Minister for Ethnic Communities
Minister of Local Government
Minister for Pacific Peoples
Associate Minister of Health
The Hon. Peseta Sam Lotu-Liga MP
  • (04) 817 6839 (Parliament)
  • (09) 622 0300 (Maungakiekie)
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Minister of Conservation
Minister for Senior Citizens
The Hon. Maggie Barry ONZM MP
  • (04) 817 6827 (Parliament)
  • (09) 486 0005 (North Shore)

Ministers outside Cabinet

Portfolio and Responsibilities Incumbent Contact Phone Number[5]
Minister for Small Business
Minister of Statistics
Minister of Veterans' Affairs
Associate Minister of Immigration
Associate Minister of Transport
The Hon. Craig Foss MP
  • (04) 817 6625 (Parliament)
  • (06) 870 3480 (Tukituki)
Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
Minister for Food Safety
Associate Minister for Primary Industries
Associate Minister for Social Development
The Hon. Jo Goodhew MP
  • (04) 817 6833 (Parliament)
  • (03) 683 1386 (Timaru)
  • (03) 308 7510 (Ashburton)
Minister of Customs
Minister for Disability Issues
Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
Associate Minister of Conservation
The Hon. Nicky Wagner MP
  • (04) 817 6633 (Parliament)
  • (03) 365 8297 (Christchurch Central)
Minister for Land Information
Minister for Women
Associate Minister of Local Government
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
The Hon. Louise Upston MP
  • (04) 817 8231 (Parliament)
  • (07) 827 5572 (Cambridge)
  • (07) 886 5554 (South Waikato)
  • (07) 376 5563 (Taupo)
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Associate Minister for Accident Compensation Corporation
The Hon. Paul Goldsmith MP
  • (04) 817 6945 (Parliament)
  • (09) 524 4930 (Epsom)

Ministers outside Cabinet from other parties with confidence and supply agreements

Portfolio and Responsibilities Incumbent Contact Phone Number[6][7][8]
Minister of Internal Affairs
Associate Minister of Conservation
Associate Minister of Health
The Hon. Peter Dunne MP
  • (04) 817 9410 (Parliament)
Minister for Māori Development
Minister for Whanau Ora
Associate Minister for Economic Development
The Hon. Te Ururoa Flavell MP
  • (04) 817 6953(Parliament)
  • (07) 307 0177(Whakatane)
  • (07) 350 3261(Rotorua)
Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education
Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Regulatory Reform
David Seymour MP
  • (09) 523 0470(Newmarket)
  • (09) 522 7464(Epsom)


  1. "Cabinet Manual". Cabinet Office of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Cabinet government". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  3. "Cabinet Manual: Cabinet". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  4. "National MPs". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  5. "National MPs". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  6. "Contact | United Future Parliamentary". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  7. "Māori Party | Te Ururoa Flavell". 2005-09-17. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
  8. "Contact | ACT New Zealand". Retrieved 2015-09-19.
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