|Prime Minister of New Zealand|
|Te Pirimia o Aotearoa|
since 25 January 2023
|Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet|
|Status||Head of government|
At the Governor-General's pleasure
|Formation||7 May 1856|
|First holder||Henry Sewell|
|Deputy||Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand|
|New Zealand portal|
The prime minister of New Zealand (Māori: Te pirimia o Aotearoa) is the head of government of New Zealand. The incumbent[update] prime minister, Chris Hipkins, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 25 January 2023.
The prime minister (informally abbreviated to PM) ranks as the most senior
The office exists by a long-established
Originally the head of government was titled
Appointment and tenure
The governor-general appoints a prime minister, like other ministerial positions, on behalf of the monarch. By the conventions of responsible government, the governor-general will call to form a government the individual most likely to receive the support, or confidence, of a majority of the elected members of parliament (MPs). In making this appointment, convention requires the governor-general to act on the outcome of the electoral process and subsequent discussions between political parties by which the person who will lead the government as prime minister is identified. In practice, the position typically falls to an MP who is the parliamentary leader of the largest political party among those forming the government.[b] The prime minister may lead a coalition government and/or a minority government dependent on support from smaller parties during confidence and supply votes.
Once appointed and sworn in by the governor-general, the prime minister remains in the post until dismissal, resignation,
Where a prime minister, and by extension the government, can no longer command the confidence of the house, either by losing a confidence vote or as the result of an election, convention dictates that they should tender their resignation to the governor-general. As the Constitution Act 1986 requires general elections every three years, this is the maximum period of time that a prime minister can serve without their mandate being renewed.
Responsibilities and powers
The office of prime minister is not defined by
Principal adviser to the sovereign
By constitutional convention, the prime minister holds formal power to
- appointment or recall of the governor-general[d]
- amendments to the Letters Patent Constituting the Office of Governor-General, which most recently occurred in 2006
- the conferment of New Zealand honours(except for honours in the personal gift of the monarch)
Principal adviser to the governor-general
As head of government, the prime minister alone has the right to advise the governor-general to:
- appoint, dismiss, or accept the resignation of ministers
Head of government
Convention regards the prime minister as "
- the ability to set the Cabinet agenda, thereby controlling items for discussion[f]
- the ability to appoint and dismiss ministers, and to allocate portfolios[g]
- the influence a prime minister is likely/assumed to have as leader of the dominant political party. These powers may give more direct control over subordinates than is attached to the prime ministerial role.
- the power gained simply from being central to most significant decision-making, and from being able (as of right) to comment on and criticise any decisions taken by other ministers
Since the 1996 implementation of the MMP electoral system, the role of the prime minister in negotiating and maintaining relationships with support parties has increased, placing some constraints on prime ministerial abilities.
Other roles and functions
|'New Zealand's darkest day'. Prime Minister John Key addresses the country live on television following the earthquake that devastated Christchurch on 22 February 2011. Providing reassurance and leadership at times of national crisis is a traditional responsibility of the prime minister.|
Prime ministers also take on additional portfolios (to prioritise policy areas). Historically, 19th-century premiers looked after the colonial-secretary and finance portfolios. As New Zealand developed, the role of minister of finance became too big; Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon came under criticism for taking on the finance portfolio during his time in office (1975–1984), as it resulted in a large concentration of power in the hands of one individual.
Before 1987 it was common for prime ministers to take the role of minister of foreign affairs, so they could represent New Zealand on the international stage. More recent prime ministers have taken portfolios relevant to their interests, or to promote specific areas they saw as important. For example, David Lange took the education portfolio in his second term; Helen Clark took the role of minister for arts, culture and heritage; John Key served as minister for tourism; and Jacinda Ardern became minister for child-poverty reduction.
Although no longer likely to be the minister of foreign affairs, the prime minister remains responsible for welcoming foreign heads of government, visiting leaders overseas, and attending Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.
Conventionally, the prime minister is the responsible minister for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC; founded in 1990), which has the task of supporting the policy agenda of Cabinet through policy advice and the coordination of the implementation of key government programmes.
Prior to 2014, the prime minister was also responsible for the New Zealand Security and Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). In 2014, Prime Minister John Key gave himself the new portfolio of National Security and Intellegence and delegated responsibility for SIS and GCSB to other ministers. He also expanded the role of DPMC in security and intelligence. This model has been followed by subsequent prime ministers.
Privileges of office
Salary and perquisites
Under the Remuneration Authority Act 1977, and the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Act 2013, a prime minister's salary is determined annually by the Remuneration Authority, an independent body established by parliament to set salaries for members of parliament and other government officials.
The incumbent prime minister's official residence is Premier House, Tinakori Road, Wellington. There the prime minister hosts receptions and events for New Zealand and overseas guests. Unlike the residences of certain other heads of government (e.g. the White House and 10 Downing Street), Premier House does not serve as the government headquarters; the location of the prime minister's office is the Beehive, in the parliament precinct a short distance away. The prime minister's governmental work is supported by the non-partisan Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The separate Private Office of the Prime Minister provides advice and support on political party matters.
Security and transport
The Diplomatic Protection Service (DPS) is a special branch of the New Zealand Police that is charged with protecting the prime minister (and their family) and other senior government officials, as well as diplomats.
The DPS provides the prime minister with transport; they are driven in the BMW 7 Series 730LD and 750LI, the latter of which is armoured. Although usually flown domestically on regularly scheduled Air New Zealand flights, the prime minister also makes use of Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft, most notably is a Boeing 757. The 757 aircraft, which are used for international travel, have been upgraded with work stations, internal air stairs, and military communications capabilities. The 757 fleet is set to be replaced by 2028.
Former officeholders are entitled to annuity and travel payments for the rest of their lives. Former prime ministers who held the office for no less than two years are entitled to a yearly rate of $10,900 for each complete year the person held office, with a maximum of $54,500 payable annually. Former prime ministers, when travelling within New Zealand, are eligible to be paid if the travel is for the purpose of fulfilling commitments related to her or his role as a former prime minister.
Should a serving or former prime minister die, they are accorded a state funeral (subject to the approval of the family). Two prime ministers who died in office were buried in mausoleums: William Massey (died 1925) in the Massey Memorial in Wellington, and Michael Joseph Savage (died 1940) in the Savage Memorial at Bastion Point in Auckland.
Assuming that Henry Sewell is counted as the first prime minister, 41 individuals have held the office since it was established. Some of these people have held it on several separate occasions, with the record for maximum number of times being shared between William Fox and Harry Atkinson (both of whom served four times). The longest that anyone has served in the office is 13 years, a record set by Richard Seddon. The first holder of the office, Henry Sewell, led the country for the shortest total time; his only term lasted just 13 days. The shortest term belonged to Harry Atkinson, whose third term lasted only seven days, but Atkinson served longer in total than did Sewell. The youngest was Edward Stafford, who was appointed premier in 1856, at 37 years, 40 days old. The oldest was Walter Nash, who was 78 years old when he left office in 1960 (and 75 upon taking office in 1957).
It is regarded that all New Zealand prime ministers thus far have been
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to have had three female heads of government, and one of only three countries to have had a female head of government directly succeed another. The first female prime minister was Jenny Shipley of the National Party, who replaced Jim Bolger in late 1997; Shipley was succeeded by Helen Clark in 1999. Jacinda Ardern, the second female leader of the Labour Party after Clark, became prime minister in 2017.
On becoming the
The origins of the office of prime minister are disputed. Use of the words prime minister as a descriptive term date back to the First Parliament, where they are applied to James FitzGerald and Thomas Forsaith. FitzGerald and Forsaith had no official titles, however, and New Zealand had not yet obtained self-government. As such, they are not usually considered prime ministers in any substantive sense.
The first person to be formally appointed to a position of executive leadership was
Initially, premiers acted as mere advisers to the governor—with the governor at times a very active partner. This began to change during the first tenure of Edward Stafford. Stafford met with his ministers and made decisions outside of the
The political position of the premier was enhanced by the development of modern
The title of "prime minister" was used by Richard Seddon after 1901, following New Zealand's self-exclusion from the Federation of Australia. Seddon's immediate successor, William Hall-Jones, was the first to be sworn in as "prime minister", in 1906.
The expanding power of the prime minister was kept in check by the need to build consensus with other leading members of Cabinet and of the governing party, including those who represented various ideological wings of the party. Other institutions, including Parliament itself and the wider state bureaucracy, also acted as limits on prime ministerial power; in 1912 Thomas Mackenzie was the last prime minister to lose power through an unsuccessful confidence motion in the House of Representatives.
Towards modern leadership
One change brought about by the
Constitutional conventions adopted in 1930, following the
Until the premiership of Helen Clark, it was customary for senior members of the legislature, executive and judiciary—including the prime minister—to be appointed to the
On 21 June 2018, Labour's Jacinda Ardern became the first prime minister of New Zealand (and second elected head of government in the world) to give birth while in office. Ardern was also the first prime minister to lead a single-party majority government since the introduction of MMP, doing so from 2020 to 2023.
Living former prime ministers
As of February 2023, there are seven living former New Zealand prime ministers, as seen below.
Deputy prime minister
An office titled "deputy prime minister" has existed since 1949.[h] The deputy typically holds important ministerial portfolios and, by convention, becomes acting prime minister in the absence or incapacity of the prime minister. The deputy is commonly a member of the same party as the prime minister, but not necessarily so; in coalition governments the parliamentary leader of a junior party may be offered the post. Carmel Sepuloni has been deputy prime minister since 25 January 2023.
Lists relating to the prime ministers of New Zealand
Lists of the 41 people who have so far held the premiership:
- List of prime ministers of New Zealand
- List of prime ministers of New Zealand by age
- List of prime ministers of New Zealand by place of birth
- List of burial places of New Zealand prime ministers
- Spouse of the prime minister of New Zealand
- List of New Zealand electorates represented by sitting prime ministers
- New Zealand order of precedence
- List of New Zealand governments
- List of current heads of state and government
- Powers of the prime minister of the United Kingdom – comparable to the New Zealand prime minister
- The aftermath of the 1931 New Zealand general election proved an exception.
- Five premiers and prime ministers have died in office: John Ballance (1893), Richard Seddon (1906), William Massey (1925), Michael Joseph Savage (1940), and Norman Kirk (1974). All died of natural causes. See: List of members of the New Zealand Parliament who died in office.
- No prime minister in New Zealand has ever exercised the power of recall. Three governors were recalled during the colonial period, but on the advice of British ministers.
- The prime minister is legally obligated to do so within three years of the previous election.
- Some political scientists have gone so far as to describe the Cabinet as the prime minister's "focus group".
- The extent to which this power can be exercised varies between parties; the Labour Party, for example, places most of this responsibility in the hands of its parliamentary caucus, leaving the prime minister only with the power to choose which portfolios a minister is given. Furthermore, the MMP electoral system has complicated this, as a prime minister may have to consult with the leaders of other parties in government.
- The formal title dates to 1949, although the role of deputy has existed on an informal basis for as long as the office of prime minister/premier has existed.
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Now that New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit world headlines by becoming only the second elected head of government to give birth in office, attention has naturally been drawn to the first such leader – Pakistan's late two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
- "It's a girl! Jacinda Ardern gives birth to her first child". Newshub. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
She is only the second world leader in history to give birth while in office. Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto gave birth to a daughter in 1990.
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- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)
- Biographies of Premiers and Prime Ministers at NZHistory
- Prime Minister press releases at Beehive.govt.nz