Government (New Zealand)
Where can I find information about the New Zealand government system?
Entry last updated: 20/12/19
New Zealand has a democratic system of government, with elections taking place every three years. The head of government is the Prime Minister. The system of government is also called a constitutional monarchy, which means it has a constitution (rules of government) and a Monarch or Head of State who is Queen Elizabeth II.
History of Government
Although New Zealand now governs independently, it has had a long association with Great Britain. In the resources below you will find information about New Zealand's journey from European settlement, to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the provincial government years, its dominion status through to independence.
Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Go to Sections on the front page of the website.
- Choose 'Government and nation' , then 'Institutions of Government', and then the story Colonial and provincial government for early history.
- Choose 'New Zealand in Brief' and then story Nation and government for further history.
Tips: Check the 'External links and sources' for links to other websites like AtoJs Online (Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives).
NZHistory is another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. It also belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
On the homepage there is a link to Politics and Government where you will see further headings like Political milestones which outlines the key events in the history of the New Zealand government and The work of the government which traces the work of the government and how it has changed over time.
Tips: We like sites that are from government organisations because we can trust the information. You can tell these sites by their web address - New Zealand sites have .govt in the address.
Politics and parties
For many years the National and Labour parties dominated the New Zealand elections under the First-Past-the-Post system. But with the introduction of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) in 1996, smaller parties are now able to win representation in parliament and can play a vital part in forming the government with coalitions and confidence and supply agreements.
Te Ara has a story titled Political parties which follows the development of the political party system in New Zealand from the 1890s right through to the present day.
Tips: The menu on the left has links to the latest press releases and speeches.
The Electoral Commissions's website has all the information about the New Zealand general elections.
From the tabs along the top choose:
- Parties and candidates which explains the rules around parties and candidates registering for an election.
- Voting system to find out about party votes and electoral votes in the MMP system and how the Sainte-Laguë mathematical formula is used to determine the order in which seats in parliament are allocated to the various parties. There is also a page on Referenda .
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.
Parliament makes the laws for New Zealand and approves government spending. It is made up of the House of representatives (Members of Parliament) and is opened and closed by the Governor General, who is a representative of the Queen.
For an overview, revisit Te Ara : the encyclopedia of New Zealand and choose Stories A-Z to find the stories:
- Parliament where you will see mentioned terms like coalitions, Whips, Parliamentary privilege and Select Committees.
- Cabinet government
NZHistory also has information about Parliament buildings, Parliament's culture and traditions, the House of representatives and more.
- Choose Topics.
- Go to 'Politics and government'.
- Then 'Parliament and the people'.
This website has lots of information about what happens in parliament , how members are chosen, how laws are made and the different roles people have.
- Choose Visit and learn.
- Then How parliament works. This page has a series of links to explore on Our system of government and Who's who in Parliament?
- Choose Parliamentary Business to read about Select committees , Order paper and questions, Bills and Laws , Hansard (Debates) and more.
Tips: Watch live broadcasts and listen to audio programmes from the New Zealand Parliament by selecting the 'Watch' and 'Listen' links from the front page.
The New Zealand government is responsible for many services and agencies that people need to access in their day to day lives. Things like health, education, work, tax and immigration are just some.
Links on the front page include:
- Government A-Z which lists and links to all the government departments.
- data.govt.nz which has lots of data (statistics) on Health, Education, Transport and more.
- Engaging with government which has an easy to read summary How government works.
Images and media
If you are looking for images of Prime Ministers, government buildings etc, current and historical magazine and newspaper articles and other media then the websites below may help.
DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
Tips: Use the search bar to find information or choose 'Explore' to browse the different collections.
Australia/ New Zealand Reference Centre is one of the EPIC databases. EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this. To find articles from New Zealand publications:
- Enter your search words into the search bar.
- Go to Refine Results (on the menu on the left).
- Limit to 'Full text'.
- Select 'show more' under Publication to bring up the full list of publications.
- Choose newspapers like The Press, Dominion Post, New Zealand Herald and more.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.
This is a great website for New Zealand television videos and primary source material.
- Under the Collections tab at the top of the screen you will find a link to Politics where you can watch political debates and find out about New Zealand politicians.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
Your local public library or school library may have some books about the New Zealand government. Here are some suggestions:
- New Zealand's Prime Ministers : from Dick Seddon to John Key by Michael Bassett.
- Running the country : a look inside New Zealand's government by Maria Gill.
- From the Bay of Islands to the Beehive : government in Aotearoa New Zealand by Denny Newburn.
- Our government : its origins, systems and effects on people's lives by W J Carruthers.
SCIS no: 1887010