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New Zealand House of Representatives

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

Government (59)

Supported by (4)

Opposition (58)

Closed list Mixed-member proportional representation
Last election
20 September 2014
Next election
by 18 November 2017
Meeting place
Parliament Buildings
New Zealand

The New Zealand House of Representatives is the sole chamber of the legislature of New Zealand. The House and the Queen of New Zealand form the New Zealand Parliament.

The House of Representatives is a democratically elected body, usually consisting of 120 members (currently 121 due to an overhang) known as Members of Parliament. Members are elected for limited terms, holding office until Parliament is dissolved (a maximum of three years).

New Zealand essentially follows the Westminster system of government, and is governed by a cabinet and Prime Minister commanding a majority in the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives was established by the British New Zealand Constitution Act 1852, which established a bicameral legislature, but the upper house, the Legislative Council, was abolished in 1951 so Parliament is now unicameral. Parliament received full control over all New Zealand affairs in 1947 with the passage of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act.

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


  • Title 1
  • Members of Parliament 2
  • Elections 3
    • Last election results 3.1
  • Passage of legislation 4
    • First Reading 4.1
    • Select Committee stage 4.2
    • Second Reading 4.3
    • Committee of the whole House 4.4
    • Third Reading 4.5
  • Select committees 5
  • Other functions 6
  • New Zealand Youth Parliament 7
  • Accredited news organisations 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


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;[1] 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.

The 51st New Zealand Parliament is the current house, and its membership was elected at the 2014 general election and, so far, one subsequent by-election.

Based on British traditions, the longest continuously serving MP in the house holds an 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.[2]

The following members of parliament who were first elected more than 30 years ago are still alive:

Date elected Member Born (age) Parliament
30 November 1957 Bob Tizard (1924-06-07) 7 June 1924 32nd
30 November 1963 Haddon Donald (1917-03-20) 20 March 1917 34th
Colin Moyle (1929-07-18) 18 July 1929
Brian MacDonell (1935-05-19) 19 May 1935
26 November 1966 Jonathan Hunt (1938-12-02) 2 December 1938 35th
29 November 1969 Gerald O'Brien (1924-12-02) 2 December 1924 36th
Hugh Templeton (1929-03-24) 24 March 1929
Koro Wētere (1935-06-22) 22 June 1935
Roger Douglas (1937-12-05) 5 December 1937
Murray Rose (1939-12-14) 14 December 1939
21 February 1970 Ian Brooks (1928-04-21) 21 April 1928
25 November 1972 Ian Quigley (1931-10-16) 16 October 1931 37th
Bill Birch (1934-04-09) 9 April 1934
Jim Bolger (1935-05-31) 31 May 1935
Russell Marshall (1936-02-15) 15 February 1936
J. B. Munro (1936-08-15) 15 August 1936
Michael Bassett (1938-08-28) 28 August 1938
Richard Mayson (1941-10-13) 13 October 1941
Kerry Burke (1942-03-24) 24 March 1942
Mike Moore (1949-01-28) 28 January 1949
2 November 1974 John Kirk (1947-06-27) 27 June 1947


See: Electoral system of New Zealand

Election to the House is by the mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system, which provides for proportional representation. The MMP system means that there are usually several parties present in the House — at present, there are eight. The MMP system replaced the old "first-past-the-post" (FPP) voting system after a referendum in 1993. The first MMP vote was at the 1996 election.

Last election results

  Summary of the 20 September 2014 election result for the New Zealand House of Representatives[3]
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[1]
total 2,405,620 100.00 71 50 121 0
party informal votes 10,681
disallowed votes
total votes cast 2,416,481
turnout 76.95%
total electorate 3,140,417[4]
  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 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.[5] 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.[6]

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.
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.

  • Questions may be asked of Ministers, select committee chairs, and members in charge of bills every sitting day.

New Zealand Youth Parliament

  • Once in every term of Parliament a New Zealand Youth Parliament is held. This major national event is open to 16 - 18 year olds who are appointed by individual MPs to represent them in their role for a few days in Wellington. The Youth MPs spend time debating a mock bill in the House and in select committees and asking questions of Cabinet Ministers. The previous New Zealand Youth Parliament was held in July 2013.[7]

Accredited news organisations

The following list is of news agencies which are accredited members of the New Zealand House of Representatives press gallery.[8]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 194.  
  3. ^ "Official Count Results -- Overall Status".  
  4. ^ "Enrolment statistics by electorate -- as at 20 September 2014". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  5. ^ Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand: Chapter 7 Parties and Government
  6. ^ "Standing Orders of the House of Representatives" (PDF). New Zealand House of Representatives. 12 August 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  7. ^ Youth Parliament 2013 - MYD. Accessed: 20 November 2012.
  8. ^ Parliamentary website

External links

  • Parliament of New Zealand
  • Images from around Parliament Buildings
  • Digitised reports from selected volumes of the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives
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