Events In History
12 January 1954Queen Elizabeth II opens Parliament
A crowd of 50,000 greeted Queen Elizabeth II, resplendent in her coronation gown, when she opened a special session of the New Zealand Parliament in its centennial year. Read more...
1 January 1951Legislative Council abolished
The Legislative Council was New Zealand's Upper House, to which members were appointed, not elected. It ceased to exist on New Year's Day 1951. Read more...
26 September 1907Joseph Ward proclaims Dominion status
Prime Minister Ward read the proclamation to the gathered crowd from the steps of the General Assembly Library in Wellington. This first Dominion Day was a public holiday. Read more...
14 August 1891Women's vote petitions presented to Parliament
These petitions, signed by 9000 women, contributed to the introduction of a Female Suffrage Bill in Parliament. This received majority support in the House of Representatives but was defeated in the Legislative Council. Read more...
26 July 1865Parliament moves to Wellington
The capital moved from Auckland to more centrally located Wellington on the recommendation of an Australian commission. The former Wellington Provincial Council chamber became the new home for Parliament. Read more...
24 May 1854Parliament's first sitting in Auckland
It started with a bang – 21 in fact, fired from the guns at Auckland’s Fort Britomart. Once the smoke cleared, New Zealand’s first Parliament was in business. Read more...
19 August 1853Wakefield elected to Parliament
The originator of the New Zealand Company was elected to the House of Representatives as the member for Hutt, six months after arriving in the colony. He had been quick to lobby for the introduction of responsible government. Read more...
17 January 1853New Zealand Constitution Act comes into force
Governor Sir George Grey issued a proclamation to bring the New Zealand Constitution Act (UK) of 1852 into operation, establishing a system of representative government for the colony. Read more...
\Today there are 120 MPs in New Zealand's Parliament, which is a far cry from the 37 who met for the first time in Auckland in 1854.
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 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 6 – Staff
New Zealand's early politicians encouraged Parliament to adopt the traditions of the British Parliament so that New Zealand's Parliament would be invested with great
Page 7 – Spectators
Aside from its constitutional functions, Parliament has also provided a spectacle for members of the public.
Page 8 – Reporting and broadcasting
The reporting of Parliament has always been an important part of the parliamentary story.
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 NZHistory.net.nz team.LinksParliament (Te Ara)BooksMartin, John E.
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.
Page 2 – Quick history
New Zealand's Parliament has been making laws, scrutinising the government and representing New Zealanders for over 150 years.
Page 3 – Parliament
Today there are two parts to Parliament – the House of Representatives (or the Lower House) and the Governor-General, but between 1854 and 1951 there was a third part,
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 5 – 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 6 – 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.
Page 8 – Useful terms
Glossary of terms used in Parliament
Page 9 – Milestones
Timeline of key events in New Zealand's parliamentary history
Page 10 – Further information
This web feature was written by John E. Martin and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team.LinksPolitical participation (Te Ara)BooksMartin, John E.
Explore Parliament's rich history and its colourful culture and traditions.
Page 2 – Parliament in cartoons
For centuries, politics and Parliament have been the subject of public comment, satire and humour. Almost since the beginning, New Zealand's Parliament has been portrayed
Page 3 – Parliament in postcards
Painters and photographers loved to capture the beauty of Parliament's buildings in postcards, and New Zealanders and visitors sent these to friends and family in new Zealand
Page 4 – Westminster traditions
Many parliaments take a lead from Britain's ancient House of Commons, and New Zealand, too, followed the traditions in the home country.
Page 5 – Bad language
In the cut and thrust of Parliament's Debating Chamber, there are rules about what can and cannot be said.
Page 6 – Parliament in te reo
Te reo (the Māori language) came into Parliament with the first Māori MPs, elected in 1868.
Page 8 – Further information
This web feature was written by John E.
Between April and June 1868 the first four Māori MPs were elected to New Zealand's Parliament. Despite ongoing debate, the Māori seats remain a distinctive feature of this country's electoral landscape almost 150 years later.
- Page 1 - Māori and the voteBetween April and June 1868 the first four Māori MPs were elected to New Zealand's Parliament. Despite ongoing debate, the Māori seats remain a distinctive feature of this
Pivotal political and constitutional events with links to further information
- Page 1 - Political and constitutional timelinePivotal political and constitutional events with links to further
New Zealand has had a governor or (from 1917) a Governor-General since 1840. The work of these men and women has reflected the constitutional and political history of New Zealand in many ways.
- Page 2 - Modern dutiesThe Governor-General's duties are divided into three functions: ceremonial, community and
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