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Politics of New Zealand

New Zealand has a parliamentary system of government closely patterned on that of the United Kingdom and is a fully independent member of the Commonwealth. It has no written constitution.

Executive authority vests in a cabinet led by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties holding the majority of seats in parliament. All cabinet ministers must be members of parliament and are collectively responsible to it.

The unicameral Parliament (House of Representatives) has 120 seats, six of which currently are reserved for Maori elected on a separate Maori roll. However, Maori may alternatively vote and run for the non-reserved seats and several have entered Parliament in this way. Parliaments are elected for a maximum term of 3 years, although elections can be called sooner.

The judiciary consists of the Court of Appeals, the High Court, and the District Courts. New Zealand law has three principal sources - English common law, certain statutes of the UK Parliament enacted before 1947, and statutes of the New Zealand Parliament[?]. In interpreting common law, the courts have been concerned with preserving uniformity with common law as interpreted in the United Kingdom. This uniformity is bolstered by the maintenance of the Privy Council in London as the final court of appeal and by judges' practice of following British decisions, even though, technically, they are not bound by them.

Local government in New Zealand has only the powers conferred upon it by parliament. The country's 12 regional councils are directly elected, set their own tax (rating) rates, and have a chairman elected by their members. Regional council responsibilities include environmental management, regional aspects of civil defence, and transportation planning. The 74 "territorial authorities" - 15 city councils, 58 district councils in rural areas, and one county council for the Chatham Islands - are directly elected, raise local taxes at rates they themselves set, and are headed by popularly-elected mayors. The territorial authorities may delegate powers to local community boards. These boards, instituted at the behest either local citizens or territorial authorities, advocate community views but cannot levy taxes, appoint staff, or own property.

The conservative National Party[?] and the left-leaning Labour Party have dominated New Zealand political life since a Labour government came to power in 1935. During 14 years in office (1935 - 1949), the Labour Party implemented a broad array of social and economic legislation, including comprehensive social security, a large scale public works[?] programme, a 40-hour working week, a minimum basic wage, and compulsory unionism. The National Party won control of the government in 1949 and adopted many welfare measures instituted by the Labour Party. Except for two brief periods of Labour governments in 1957 - 1960 and 1972 - 1975, National held power until 1984. After regaining control in 1984, the Labour government instituted a series of radical market-oriented reforms in response to New Zealand's mounting external debt. It also enacted anti-nuclear legislation that effectively brought about New Zealand's suspension from the ANZUS security alliance with the United States of America and Australia.

In October 1990, the National Party again formed the government, for the first of three, 3-year terms. In 1996, New Zealand inaugurated a (MMP) system to elect its Parliament. The system was expected (among numerous other goals) to increase representation of smaller parties in Parliament and appears to have done so in the MMP elections to date. Since 1996, neither the National nor the Labour Party has had an absolute majority in Parliament, and for all but one of those years, the government has been a minority one. After 9 years in office, the National Party lost the November 1999 election. Labour outpolled National by 39% to 30% and formed a coalition, minority government with the left-wing Alliance Party. The government often relied on support from the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand[?] to pass legislation.

The Labour Party retained power in the 27 July 2002 election, forming a coalition with Jim Anderton[?]'s new party, the Progressive Coalition, and reaching an agreement for support from the United Future party. Helen Clark remained prime minister.

Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: New Zealand
abbreviation: NZ

Data code: NZ

Government type: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Wellington

Administrative divisions:

Regions (New Zealand) -- New Zealand is divided into regions, which have either a regional council or a unitary authority. Regional council areas are divided into territorial authority areas, each of which is administrated by either a city council or a district council.

There are 15 city councils, administrating: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Hutt City, Invercargill[?], Manukau, Napier, Nelson, North Shore[?], Palmerston North[?], Porirua, Upper Hutt, Waitakere[?], Wellington.

There are 59 district council areas, including unitary authorities: Ashburton[?], Banks Peninsula, Buller[?], Carterton[?], Central Hawke's Bay[?], Central Otago[?], Chatham Islands, Clutha[?], Far North[?], Franklin, Gisborne, Gore[?], Grey, Hastings, Hauraki[?], Horowhenua[?], Hurunui[?], Kaikoura[?], Kaipara[?], Kapiti Coast[?], Kawerau[?], Mackenzie[?], Manawatu[?], Marlborough, Masterton[?], Matamata-Piako[?], New Plymouth, Opotiki[?], Otorohanga[?], Papakura[?], Queenstown-Lakes[?], Rangitikei[?], Rodney[?], Rotorua[?], Ruapehu[?], Selwyn[?], South Taranaki[?], South Waikato[?], South Wairarapa[?], Southland[?], Stratford, Tararua[?], Tasman[?], Taupo, Tauranga[?], Thames-Coromandel[?], Timaru[?], Waikato, Waimakariri[?], Waimate[?], Waipa[?], Wairoa[?], Waitaki[?], Waitomo[?], Wanganui[?], Western Bay of Plenty[?], Westland, Whakatane[?], Whangarei[?].

Dependent areas: Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau

Independence: 26 September 1907 (from UK)

National holiday: Waitangi Day, 6 February 1840 (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty)

Constitution: no formal, written constitution; consists of various documents, including certain acts of the UK and New Zealand Parliaments; Most constitutional provisions have been consolidated into the Constitution Act 1986.

Legal system: based on English law, with special land courts for the remaining small parts of country classified as Maori land; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952), represented by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Silvia Cartwright[?] (since 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister of New Zealand: Helen CLARK (since 10 December 1999) and Deputy Prime Minister Michael CULLEN[?] (since August 2002)
cabinet: Executive Council appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; Governor-General appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the Governor-General for a three-year term; deputy prime minister appointed by the Governor-General

Legislative branch: unicameral House of Representatives - commonly called Parliament (120 seats; Electoral system is called mixed member proportional (MMP), adapted from the German model. Currently, 63 members are elected by popular vote in single-member constituencies, the remainder are appointed from party lists in proportion to the number of party votes received nationally)
term: Three years, or sooner if the Prime Minister seeks a dissolution from the Governor-General. Elections were last held 27 July 2002 (next must be called by July 2005)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NZLP 52, NP 27, NZFP 13 ACT New Zealand 9, Green Party 9,UNZ 8, Progressive Coalition 2.
note: NZLP and Progessive Coalition formed the government coalition; the United Future undertook to support the government on essential matters; the National Party remained the official opposition party

Judicial branch: High Court; Court of Appeal

Political parties and leaders:

  • ACT New Zealand Richard PREBBLE[?]
  • Alliance (a coalition of the Democratic Party, New Zealand Liberal Party, and Mana Motuhake) [Laila Harré]
  • Christian Coalition (a coalition of the Christian Democrats and Christian Heritage Party) [Rev. Graham CAPILL]
  • Conservative Party (formerly Right of Centre Party) [Trevor ROGERS]
  • Democratic Party [John WRIGHT]
  • Green Party [Jeanette FITZSIMONS and Rod DONALD]
  • Mana Motuhake [Sandra LEE]
  • Mauri Pacific Party (composed of members who broke away from the NZFP) [Tau HENARE]
  • National Party or NP [Bill ENGLISH]
  • Progressive Coalition Party Jim ANDERTON[?]
  • New Zealand First Party or NZFP Winston PETERS[?]
  • New Zealand Labour Party or NZLP Helen CLARK
  • New Zealand Liberal Party [Frank GROVER]
  • United Future or UNZ [Peter DUNNE]

International organization participation: ABEDA[?], ANZUS (US suspended security obligations to NZ on 11 August 1986), APEC, AsDB, Australia Group, C, CCC, CP, EBRD, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA[?], IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM (guest), NSG, OECD, OPCW, PCA, Sparteca[?], SPC, SPF[?], UN, UNAMSIL[?], UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNTSO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Flag description: blue with the flag of the UK in the upper hoist-side quadrant with four red five-pointed stars edged in white centered in the outer half of the flag; the stars represent the Southern Cross constellation

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