Events In History


The House of Representatives

  • The House of Representatives

    New Zealand's Parliament dates back to 1854, just 14 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the beginning of the European settlement of the country. For most of its history as a nation state, New Zealand has had some form of elected government.

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  • Page 2 – Quick history

    New Zealand's Parliament has been making laws, scrutinising the government and representing New Zealanders for over 150 years.

  • Page 4 – Doing business

    The operation of Parliament has changed over time as its workload has grown and new systems such as MMP have been implemented.

  • Page 6 – First sitting, 1854

    It started with a bang – 21 in fact, fired from the guns at Auckland's Fort Britomart. As soon as the smoke had cleared, New Zealand's first Parliament was under way.

  • Page 5 – The Opposition

    The Opposition uses a variety of tactics to hold the government to account.

  • Page 7 – The Speaker

    The Speaker, who is elected by MPs, has a key role in representing the House to the Crown and in presiding over the House.

Parliament's people

  • Parliament's people

    Today there are usually between 120 and 123 MPs in New Zealand's Parliament, which is a far cry from the 37 who met for the first time in Auckland in 1854.

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  • Page 2 – Women MPs

    For much of its first century, Parliament was a bastion of male culture. Nowadays women make up 30% of MPs.

  • Page 3 – Māori MPs

    Leaders of Māori society have represented their people in the House, including Māui Pōmare, James Carroll, Matiu Rata and, most famously, Apirana Ngata.

  • Page 4 – Pay and travel

    One of the early issues parliamentarians discussed was pay for MPs, and one of the biggest difficulties MPs faced in the early years was travelling to Parliament.

  • Page 5 – Social life

    In the early years, Parliament was a little like a superior gentlemen's club.

  • Page 9 – Biographies

    Some of the key figures in New Zealand parliamentary history

  • Page 10 – Further information

    This web feature was written by John E. Martin and produced by the team.LinksParliament (Te Ara)BooksMartin, John E.

Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

  • Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

    For more than 80 years the overnight Lyttelton ferry was a vital link in the country's transport network.

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  • Page 4 - Politicians and ferriesPoliticians used the ferries to travel between their electorates and Wellington, so they scrutinised the Union Steam Ship Company's management of the

Parliament's culture and traditions

  • Parliament's culture and traditions

    Explore Parliament's rich history and its colourful culture and traditions.

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  • Page 5 - Bad languageIn the cut and thrust of Parliament's Debating Chamber, there are rules about what can and cannot be said.

Parliament Buildings

  • Parliament Buildings

    Parliament buildings have been modified, destroyed by fire, half-built and restored; the parliamentary places and spaces have formed an important part of New Zealand's history.

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  • Page 6 - A workplaceMany people call Parliament their workplace, but for MPs and others, the parliamentary complex has not always been the ideal place to spend long

The road to MMP

  • The road to MMP

    In 1993 New Zealanders voted to replace their traditional first past the post (FPP) voting system with mixed member proportional representation (MMP). Eighteen years on, as Kiwis voted in a new electoral referendum, we explore how and why that dramatic reform came about.

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  • Page 5 - 1996 and beyond - the road to MMPThe three years following the 1993 referendum, before the first MMP election in 1996, were ones of transition and


  • Carroll, James

    Cabinet Minister and twice acting Prime Minister, James Carroll’s main aim in Parliament was to empower Maori and secure a role for them in the economic life of the country.

  • McCombs, Elizabeth Reid

    Forty years after women in New Zealand received the right to vote, Elizabeth McCombs became the first female Member of Parliament.

  • Ngāpua, Hōne Heke

    Hōne Heke Ngāpua was elected to Parliament in 1893 and represented the people of Northern Māori almost continuously until his death in 1909.

  • Bell, Francis Dillon

    Politician Francis Bell staunchly supported the Waitara purchase in 1860, which led to the Taranaki war. In 1862 he became Minister of Native Affairs. His administration has been described as 'not particularly efficient or vigorous', although he did support the 1862 forerunner of the Native Land Court

  • Coates, Joseph Gordon

    Gordon Coates seemed unbeatable. Tall and handsome, this affable war hero embodied modernity – he was the ‘jazz premier’. In 1925’s presidential-style election voters elected to take their ‘Coats off with Coates’.

  • Fraser, Peter

    Peter Fraser, New Zealand’s wartime PM, led the nation for nine years. Respected rather than loved like Savage, many experts rate him our finest PM.

  • Kirk, Norman Eric

    In 1972 Norman Kirk broke National’s 12-year-long grip on the Treasury benches and became Labour’s first New Zealand-born PM.

  • McLean, Donald

    Politician and land purchase agent Donald McLean's approach to race relations was based on the belief that European dominance was inevitable and desirable, and that the best chance for Māori was complete assimilation.

  • Seddon, Richard John

    Richard Seddon’s nickname, ‘King Dick’, says it all. Our longest-serving and most famous leader not only led the government, he was it, many argued. For 13 years he completely dominated politics.

  • Colenso, William

    Colenso arrived at the Bay of Islands as the Church Mission printer in December 1834. His achievements include printing the New Testamont in Māori and the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi.

  • Wakefield, Edward Gibbon

    A clever theorist of mercurial character, Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) masterminded the large-scale British settlement of New Zealand.

  • Lange, David Russell

    Seven years and one stomach-stapling operation after entering Parliament in 1977, David Lange became PM at the age of 41.

  • Lee, Alfred Alexander

    A charismatic ex-soldier, orator and propagandist, John A. Lee was a dynamic figure in the Labour Party from the 1920s until 1940, when he was expelled for attacking the leadership of M.J. Savage.

  • Holland, Sidney George

    Holland became PM in 1949. A year later he abolished the Legislative Council, and in 1951, after winning the Waterfront Dispute, he increased his majority in a snap election.

  • Featherston, Isaac Earl

    A stalwart of Wellington political life, Featherston served as provincial Superintendent and later served as a member of the House of Representatives, colonial secretary and minister without portfolio.

  • Rowling, Wallace Edward

    Norman Kirk’s death in office brought Bill Rowling to the prime ministership unexpectedly in August 1974. A member of an old Tasman Bay farming family, and a teacher by training, he had been finance minister since 1972.

  • Reeves, William Pember

    The series of labour acts for which William Pember Reeves was responsible gave New Zealand the most extensive system of labour regulations in the world at the turn of the twentieth century.

  • Richmond, Christopher William

    William Richmond was a lawyer, Minister in Edward Stafford’s Parliament, and judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

  • Taylor, Thomas Edward

    Tommy Taylor was one of the most colourful figures in the political life of his day. He spent his life campaigning for the prohibition of alcohol.

  • Allen, James

    As Minister of Defence from 1912 until 1920, James Allen was responsible for the organisation of New Zealand’s military forces during the First World War.

  • Wakefield, Edward Jerningham

    As the only son of New Zealand Company director Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Edward Jerningham Wakefield's life was inevitably bound up in his father's colonial and political ventures.


Related keywords

  • Main image: William Pember Reeves

    The series of labour acts for which William Pember Reeves was responsible gave New Zealand the most extensive system of labour regulations in the world at the beginning of the 20th century.