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How government works

The Government is formed after a democratic election held every 3 years.

The system of government

NZ is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. This means that our head of state is a sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth II). The Queen is represented in NZ by the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy.

The Governor-General

NZ uses a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system which makes it unlikely that any one political party (eg National, Labour, Greens) will win a majority of the seats in the House. The party with the most votes usually needs to form a coalition or agreement with another party or parties.

MMP voting system

NZ also uses the system of ‘responsible government’.  This means government can only be made up of Ministers who are first elected members of the House of Representatives.  The government can only stay in power while it has a majority of members in the House of Representatives.  This is known as having the confidence of the House.

Our system of government

The system of government works by having 3 separate branches of government. This ‘separation of powers’ makes sure no one part of government has too much power.

The different branches of government

New Zealand’s 3 branches of government

The legislature (Parliament)

This is the House of Representatives (where all the MPs sit) and it includes select committees.  

Members of Parliament (MPs)

The House’s role is to:

  • supply the government (the political party or parties in power) with MPs
  • make new laws and update old ones by carefully looking at and talking about bills -which become laws when they’re passed
  • represent New Zealanders by giving a voice to different ideas from people and organisations
  • examine and approve the government’s taxes and spending
  • check the actions of the Executive.

The Executive branch

This is the Government. It runs the country and makes day-to-day decisions on how and what NZ should spend its money on.  It brings proposed laws to parliament, and decides policies which get put into practice by government departments.

It is made up of Ministers of the Crown supported by government agencies.

List of Ministers

The judiciary

The judiciary are judges and the courts. Judges interpret the law in cases that come before the courts by hearing and deciding cases, and they can review decisions of government.

New Zealand’s courts

Utility links and page information

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