New Zealand Government Structure

Articles > New Zealand Government Structure

New Zealand’s democratically elected parliament is called the House of Representatives, which is led by the Prime Minister and his/her chosen ministers. Elections must take place every three years or sooner.

Queen Elizabeth II is New Zealand’s constitutional monarch and is represented by a Governor-General, who is appointed by the Queen every five years. In days gone by, members of the British aristocracy were chosen for this role, but sense now prevails, and a prominent, qualified New Zealander is always placed in the role. Note, as in the UK, the constitutional monarch is purely a figure head and doesn’t get involved in government.

New Zealand has a two-tier system, with no state or provincial governments. It’s divided into Central Government and Local Government.

Responsibilities of Central Government
Housing, welfare, education, health, justice, immigration, police, energy, national road and rail systems, defence, foreign policy and public finances.

Plus, Central Government regulates employment, import and export and workplace safety.

Central Government levies personal income tax, business taxes and Government Sales Tax.

Responsibilities of Local Government
Providing local services – water, waste collection and disposal, sewage treatment, parks, reserves, street lighting, roads, local public transport and libraries.

Plus, Local Government also processes building and environmental consents and other regulatory tasks.

Local Government collects taxes through property taxes – rates.

Local Government – Regional and Territorial

Local government is split into regional councils and territorial authorities (city and district councils): –

• Regional – manage resources, biosecurity control, river management, flood control, controlling land erosion, regional land transport planning and civil defense
• Territorial – community well-being and development, environmental health and safety, infrastructure, recreation and culture, and resource management

Elections and Voting
Every three years, the people of New Zealand vote for the 120 Members of Parliament which make up the House of Representatives. Voting isn’t compulsory, however, people over the age of 18 must register to vote.

New Zealand uses a form of proportional representation, called Mixed Member Proportional MMP), to fill its House of Representatives.

Each citizen or permanent resident, who has lived in New Zealand continuously for over one year, has two votes – an electorate vote and a party vote. The electorate vote is used to select an MP in 70 constituencies. He or she who gets the most votes becomes an MP. The party vote is obviously to select a particular party.

The remainder of the seats is made up of List MPs. It works like this: if a party wins 25% of the national vote and also wins 18 electorate seats, it can then make up 12 seats from the List MPs, giving it 30 seats (25% of the House of Representatives).

Elections for regional and territorial councillors and mayors are also every three years but they’re not held at the same time as a general election. Everyone over the age of 18, who is registered to vote in the parliamentary elections, is eligible to vote, which is usually by postal ballot.

The Judiciary
Judges are appointed by the Governor-General. However, it’s the Attorney General who advises the Governor-General on the appointees. Judges act independently and judges in the three highest general courts cannot be removed from office or have their salaries cut, thus safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.