New Zealand House of Representatives

New Zealand House of Representatives
51st New Zealand Parliament
David Carter, National
Since 31 January 2013
Seats 121
Current Structure of the House of Representatives
Political groups

Government (63)

Supported by (4)

Opposition (58)

Closed list Mixed-member proportional representation
Last election
20 September 2014
Next election
Next New Zealand general election
Meeting place
Parliament House, Wellington

The New Zealand House of Representatives is the sole chamber of the legislature of New Zealand. The House and the Queen of New Zealand together constitute the New Zealand Parliament. The House of Representatives passes all laws, provides ministers to form a cabinet, and supervises the work of the Government. It is also responsible for adopting the state's budgets and approving the state's accounts.

The House of Representatives is a wholly democratically elected body, usually consisting of 120 members (currently 121 due to an overhang) known as Members of Parliament (MPs).[1] Members are elected for limited terms, holding office until Parliament is dissolved (a maximum of three years). A Government is formed from the party or coalition with the majority of MPs.[1] If no majority is possible then a minority government can be formed with a confidence and supply arrangement.

The chamber was established by the British New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established a bicameral legislature; however the upper chamber, the Legislative Council, was abolished in 1951.[1] Parliament received full control over all New Zealand affairs in 1947 with the passage of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act.

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The official title of the New Zealand House of Representatives was originally the General Assembly until 1986 when it became the New Zealand House of Representatives, which it had been called in practice since the nineteenth century. It is commonly referred to as "Parliament" (the term encompasses both the monarch as the Queen-in-Parliament and the House of Representatives).

Members of Parliament

The House of Representatives takes the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as its model. It normally consists of 120 members, known as "Members of Parliament" (MPs). They were known as "Members of the House of Representatives" (MHRs) until the passing of the Parliamentary and Executive Titles Act 1907 when New Zealand became a dominion, and prior to that as "Members of the General Assembly" (MGAs). The House of Representatives meets in Parliament House in Wellington. Seats in the debating chamber form a horseshoe pattern, with members of the governing party or coalition sitting on the right hand of the Speaker and members of the opposition sitting opposite. The Speaker of the House of Representatives acts as the presiding officer.

The executive branch of the New Zealand government (the Cabinet) draws its membership exclusively from the House of Representatives, based on which party or parties can claim a majority. The Prime Minister (PM) leads the government: the Governor-General appoints the Prime Minister from a party or coalition which appears to have enough support in the House to govern. This support is immediately tested through a motion of confidence. The current government is a minority government consisting of the National Party with agreements of confidence and supply from the ACT Party, United Future, and the Māori Party;[2] the Prime Minister is John Key. The Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest opposition party. Currently the Leader of the Opposition is Andrew Little of the Labour Party.

Current Parliament

The 51st New Zealand Parliament is the current sitting of the House. Its membership was elected at the 2014 general election and, so far, one subsequent by-election. It consists of 121 MPs; the number of geographical electorates was increased from 70 at the previous election, to account for New Zealand's increasing population.[3]

Peter Dunne is Father of the House.

Based on British traditions, the longest continuously serving MP in the house holds the unofficial title "Father (or Mother) of the House". The current Father of the House in the is Peter Dunne, the leader of the United Future party, having served continuously since the 1984 general election.[4]

Oldest former MPs

The following members of parliament who were first elected more than 40 years ago are still alive:

Date elected Member Born (age) Parliament
30 November 1963 Haddon Donald 20 March 1917 34th
Colin Moyle 18 July 1929
Brian MacDonell 19 May 1935
26 November 1966 Jonathan Hunt 2 December 1938 35th
29 November 1969 Gerald O'Brien 2 December 1924 36th
Hugh Templeton 24 March 1929
Koro Wētere 22 June 1935
Roger Douglas 5 December 1937
Murray Rose 14 December 1939
21 February 1970 Ian Brooks 21 April 1928
25 November 1972 Bill Birch 9 April 1934 37th
Jim Bolger 31 May 1935
Russell Marshall 15 February 1936
J. B. Munro 15 August 1936
Michael Bassett 28 August 1938
Richard Mayson 13 October 1941
Kerry Burke 24 March 1942
Mike Moore 28 January 1949
2 November 1974 John Kirk 27 June 1947
29 November 1975 Brian Lambert 22 November 1930 38th
Rex Austin 23 May 1931
Derek Quigley 31 January 1932
Warren Cooper 21 February 1933
John Gordon Elliott 5 November 1938
Barry Brill 22 October 1940
Aussie Malcolm 11 December 1940
Ian Shearer 10 December 1941
Dail Jones 7 July 1944
Tony Friedlander 12 November 1944
Jim McLay 21 February 1945
Richard Prebble 7 February 1948
Marilyn Waring 7 October 1952

Number of members

The House started with 37 members in 1854, with numbers progressively increasing to 95 by 1882, before being reduced to 74 in 1891. Numbers slowly increased again to 99 by 1993. In 1996 numbers increased to at least 120 with the introduction of MMP elections (i.e. 120 plus any overhang seats; there has been at least one overhang seat in four of the seven MMP elections held since 1996). The year in which each change in the number of members took effect is shown in the following table.

Year Number of seats
1854 37[5]
1860 41[6]
1861 53[7]
1863 57[8]
1866 70[9]
1868 74[10]
1871 78[11]
1876 88[12]
1882 95[13]
1891 74[14]
1902 80[15]
1970 841
1973 871
1976 922
1984 952
1987 972
1993 992
1996 120 + any overhang seats[16]
Table notes

1 The total number of seats from 1969 to 1975 was calculated by the formula stated in the Electoral Amendment Act 1965: 4M+(PN/(PS/25)) where: 4M = 4 Maori seats; PN = European population of North Island; PS = European population of South Island.[17]

2 The total number of seats from 1976 to 1995 was calculated by the formula stated in the Electoral Amendment Act 1975: ((PM/(PS/25))+(PN/(PS/25)) where: PM = Maori population; PN = European population of North Island; PS = European population of South Island.[18]


Election billboards in Mount Albert, 2009.

Members of Parliament are directly elected to three-year terms, subject to calls for early elections. All New Zealand citizens 18 years or older may vote in general elections, which are conducted by secret ballot. New Zealand was the first self-governing territory to enfranchise women, starting from the 1893 election.

Since the 1996 election, a form of proportional representation called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) has been used. Under the MMP system each person has two votes; one is for electoral seats (including some reserved for Māori),[19] and the other is for a party. Since the 2014 election, there have been 71 electorate seats (which includes 7 Māori electorates), and the remaining 49 seats are assigned so that representation in parliament reflects the party vote, although a party has to win one electoral seat or 5 percent of the total party vote before it is eligible for these seats.[20]

Last election results

  Summary of the 20 September 2014 election result for the New Zealand House of Representatives[21]
Party Votes % of Votes Seats
% Change Electorate List Total Change
National 1,131,501 47.04 −0.28 41 19 60 +1
Labour 604,534 25.13 −2.35 27 5 32 −2
Green 257,356 10.70 −0.36 0 14 14 0
NZ First 208,300 8.66 +2.06 0 11 11 +3
Māori 31,850 1.32 −0.11 1 1 2 −1
ACT 16,689 0.69 −0.37 1 0 1 0
United Future 5,286 0.22 −0.38 1 0 1 0
other parties 150,104 6.24 +2.87 0 0 0 −1[lower-alpha 1]
total 2,405,620 100.00 71 50 121 0
National minority government 1,185,326 49.27 −1.14 44 20 64 0
Opposition parties 1,070,190 44.49 −1.73 27 30 57 0
party informal votes 10,681
disallowed votes
total votes cast 2,416,481
turnout 76.95%
total electorate 3,140,417[22]


  1. The loss of one MP is due to sole Mana Party MP Hone Harawira losing his Te Tai Tokerau seat

Passage of legislation

The debating chamber and committee rooms are located in the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.

The New Zealand Parliament's model for passing Acts of Parliament is similar (but not identical) to that of other Westminster System governments.

Laws are initially proposed to the House of Representatives as bills. They become Acts after being approved three times by House votes and then receiving the Royal Assent from the Governor-General. The majority of bills are promulgated by the government of the day (that is, the party or parties that have a majority in the House). It is rare for government bills to be defeated, indeed the first to be defeated in the twentieth century was in 1998, when the Local Government Amendment Bill (No 5) was defeated on its second reading.[23] It is also possible for individual MPs to promote their own bills, called member's 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. Local government and private individuals (for $2000 and only affecting themselves) may also bring forward legislation.

Proxy voting is allowed, in which members may designate a party or another member to vote on their behalf. An excuse is required.[24]

First Reading

The first stage of the process is the First Reading. The MP introducing the bill (often a minister) will give a detailed speech on the bill as a whole. Debate on the bill generally lasts two hours, with 12 MPs making ten-minute speeches (although they can split their speaking time with another MP) on the bill's general principles. Speaking slots are allocated based on the size of each party, with different parties using different methods to distribute their slots among their MPs.

The MP introducing the bill will generally make a recommendation that the bill be considered by an appropriate Select Committee (see below). Sometimes, it will be recommended that a special Committee be formed, usually when the bill is particularly important or controversial. The House then votes as to whether the bill should be sent to the Committee for deliberation. It is not uncommon for a bill to be voted to the Select Committee stage even by parties which do not support it — since Select Committees can recommend amendments to bills, parties will often not make a final decision on whether to back a bill until the Second Reading.

Select Committee stage

The Select Committee will scrutinise the bill, going over it in more detail than can be achieved by the whole membership of the House. The public can also make submissions to Select Committees, offering support, criticism, or merely comments. Written submissions from the public to the committee are normally due two months after the bill's first reading. Submitters can opt to also give an oral submission, which are heard by the committee in Wellington, and numbers permitting, Auckland and Christchurch. The Select Committee stage is seen as increasingly important today — in the past, the governing party generally dominated Select Committees, making the process something of a rubber stamp, but in the multi-party environment there is significant scope for real debate. Select Committees frequently recommend changes to bills, with prompts for change coming from the MPs on the Committee, officials who advise the Committee, and members of the public. When a majority of the Committee is satisfied with the bill, the Committee will report back to the House on it. Unless Parliament grants an extension, the time limit for Select Committee deliberations is six months or whatever deadline was set by the House when the bill was referred.

Second Reading

The Second Reading, like the first, generally consists of a two-hour debate in which MPs make ten-minute speeches. Again, speaking slots are allocated to parties based on their size. In theory, speeches should relate to the principles and objects of the bill, and also to the consideration and recommendations of the Select Committee and issues raised in public submissions. Parties will usually have made their final decision on a bill after the Select Committee stage, and will make their views clear during the Second Reading debates. At the conclusion of the Second Reading debate, the House votes on whether to accept any amendments recommended by the Select Committee by majority (unanimous amendments are not subjected to this extra hurdle).

The Government (usually through the Minister of Finance) has the power (given by the House's Standing Orders) to veto any bill (or amendment to a bill) that would have a major impact on the Government's budget and expenditure plans. This veto could be invoked at any stage of the process, but if applied to a bill as a whole would most likely be employed at the Second Reading stage. This has not occurred since the veto power was introduced in 1996, although many amendments have been vetoed at the Committee of the whole House stage (see below).

If a bill receives its Second Reading, it goes on to be considered by a Committee of the whole House.

Committee of the whole House

When a bill reaches the Committee of the whole House stage, the House resolves itself "Into Committee", that is, it forms a committee consisting of all MPs (as distinct from a Select Committee, which consists only of a few members). When the House is "In Committee", it is able to operate in a slightly less formal way than usual.

During the Committee of the whole House stage, a bill is debated in detail, usually "part by part" (a "part" is a grouping of clauses). MPs may make five-minute speeches on a particular part or provision of the bill and may propose further amendments, but theoretically should not make general speeches on the bill's overall goals or principles (that should have occurred at the Second Reading).

Sometimes a member may advertise his or her proposed amendments beforehand by having them printed on a "Supplementary Order Paper". This is common for amendments proposed by government Ministers. Some Supplementary Order Papers are very extensive, and, if agreed to, can result in major amendments to bills. On rare occasions, Supplementary Order Papers are referred to Select Committees for comment.

The extent to which a bill changes during this process varies. If the Select Committee that considered the bill did not have a government majority and made significant alterations, the Government may make significant "corrective" amendments. There is some criticism that bills may be amended to incorporate significant policy changes without the benefit of Select Committee scrutiny or public submissions, or even that such major changes can be made with little or no notice. However, under the MMP system when the Government is less likely to have an absolute majority, any amendments will usually need to be negotiated with other parties to obtain majority support.

The Opposition may also put forward wrecking amendments. These amendments are often just symbolic of their contrasting policy position, or simply intended to delay the passage of the bill through the sheer quantity of amendments for the Committee of the whole House to vote on.

Third Reading

The final Reading takes the same format as the First and Second Readings — a two-hour debate with MPs making ten-minute speeches. The speeches once again refer to the bill in general terms, and represent the final chance for debate. A final vote is taken. If a bill passes its third reading, it is passed on to the Governor-General, who may (assuming constitutional conventions are followed) give it Royal Assent as a matter of law. It then becomes law.

Select committees

Legislation is scrutinised by select committees. The committees can call for submissions from the public, thereby meaning that there is a degree of public consultation before a parliamentary bill proceeds into law. The strengthening of the committee system was in response to concerns that legislation was being forced through, without receiving due examination and revision. Each select committee has a chairperson and a deputy chairperson. MPs may be members of more than one select committee.

For the 51st Parliament, elected from the 2014 general election in September 2014, there were the following select committees in the House of Representatives, as follows:

Select committees in the 51st New Zealand Parliament
Select committee Portfolios/Jurisdictions Members (Roles)
Business Administration of the House of Representatives (sitting programmes, order of business, speaking allocations, select committee membership, etc.)
Commerce Business development, commerce, communications, consumer affairs, energy, information technology, insurance, superannuation
Education and Science Education, education review, industry training, research, science, technology
Finance and Expenditure Audit of the financial statements of the Government and departments, Government finance, revenue, taxation
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Customs, defence, disarmament and arms control, foreign affairs, immigration, trade.
Government Administration Civil defence, cultural affairs, fitness, sport and leisure, internal affairs, Pacific Island affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet, racing, services to Parliament, State services, statistics, tourism, women’s affairs, youth affairs.
Health Health
Justice and Electoral Crown legal and drafting services, electoral matters, human rights, justice
Law and Order corrections, courts, criminal law, police, serious fraud
Local Government and Environment Conservation, environment, local government.
Māori Affairs Māori affairs
Primary Production Agriculture, biosecurity, fisheries, forestry, lands, and land information.
Privileges Parliamentary privilege
Officers of Parliament
Regulations Review Administration of government regulations
Social Services Housing, senior citizens, social development, veterans’ affairs, and work and income support
Standing Orders
Transport and Industrial Relations Accident compensation, industrial relations, labour, occupational health and safety, transport, transport safety

Occasionally a special Select Committee will be created on a temporary basis. An example was the Select Committee established to study the foreshore and seabed bill.

Other functions

The House also has several other important functions.

New Zealand Youth Parliament

Accredited news organisations

The following list is of news agencies which are accredited members of the New Zealand House of Representatives press gallery.[26]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "How Parliament works: What is Parliament?". New Zealand Parliament. 28 June 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  2. "Confidence and Supply Agreement with ACT New Zealand". Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  3. "Reviewing electorate numbers and boundaries". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  4. Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 194. OCLC 154283103.
  5. Proclamation from Government Gazette of 10 March 1853, New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, 12 March 1853, page 3
  6. Electoral Districts Act 1858
  7. Representation Act 1860
  8. Representation Act 1862
  9. Representation Act 1865
  10. Maori Representation Act 1867
  11. Representation Act 1870
  12. Representation Act 1875
  13. Representation Act 1881
  14. Representation Acts Amendment Act 1887
  15. Representation Act 1900
  16. Electoral Act 1993
  17. Electoral Amendment Act 1965
  18. Electoral Amendment Act 1975
  19. "Reviewing electorate numbers and boundaries". Electoral Commission. 8 May 2005. Archived from the original on 9 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  20. "Sainte-Laguë allocation formula". Electoral Commission. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  21. "Official Count Results -- Overall Status". Electoral Commission. 4 October 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  22. "Enrolment statistics by electorate -- as at 20 September 2014". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  24. "Standing Orders of the House of Representatives" (PDF). New Zealand House of Representatives. 12 August 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  25. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  26. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 February 2007. Retrieved 26 April 2013.

External links

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