Events In History


Premiers and Prime Ministers

  • Premiers and Prime Ministers

    From Henry Sewell in 1856 to Chris Hipkins in 2023, New Zealand has had 41 prime ministers and premiers. Read biographies of the men and women who have held the top job, discover more about the role's political origins, and explore fascinating prime ministerial facts and trivia.

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  • Page 2 – Political origins

    Overview of the influence of the British political system in New Zealand and our move toward self-government in the 19th century.

  • Page 3 – Biographies

    A list of New Zealand Premiers and Prime Ministers from 1856 to the present

  • Page 4 – Prime ministerial trivia

    Trivia about New Zealand's premiers and prime ministers.

  • Page 5 – Further information

    This web feature was written by Gavin McLean and produced by the team.LinksDepartment of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) - the government department that

Housing the Prime Minister

  • Housing the Prime Minister

    Almost 150 years after the government purchased the first official premier's residence on Tinakori Road, Wellington, the address of Premier House remains the same. But in the intervening years the building has been extended, renamed, abandoned and refurbished.

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  • Page 2 – The first premier house

    Our first premiers had to find their own digs. That changed in 1865, when the government bought the premier a simple 22-year-old wooden cottage in Thorndon’s Tinakori Road.


  • Ballance, John

    John Ballance, who led the Liberals to power in 1890, was called ‘the rainmaker’ by voters relieved to see the return of prosperity.

  • Grey, George

    Sir George Grey was our only politician for whom the premiership was an anticlimax. He governed autocratically from 1845 to 1853 (greatly shaping our constitutional arrangements) and returned as governor in 1861.

  • Fox, William

    William Fox headed New Zealand governments four times. A rug-puller rather than a bridge-builder, he was better at defeating governments than leading them.

  • 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.

  • Sewell, Henry

    Henry Sewell, our first premier – or colonial secretary as early premiers were called – was more of a sojourner than a settler. Although he spent 17 years inNew Zealandin three periods between 1853 and 1876, he never put down deep roots..

  • Stout, Robert

    The careers of Sir Robert Stout and Sir Julius Vogel were so closely intertwined that Stout’s governments are usually referred to as Stout-Vogel ministries. Both men started their public lives in Otago and followed similar policies.

  • Vogel, Julius

    Premier Julius Vogel's great plan was to borrow heavily to build infrastructure and to lure migrants. It was controversial, but the money and migrants stimulated the economy and created a viable consumer market for producers.

  • Weld, Frederick Aloysius

    Frederick Weld was only briefly premier, but he later became a serial colonial governor. That he, a Roman Catholic, could lead a colony showed how different New Zealand was to Britain.

  • Whitaker, Frederick

    Despite Frederick Whitaker’s advanced views on electoral reform, this two-time premier tarnished his reputation by land speculation and confiscation.

  • Stafford, Edward William

    Edward Stafford was New Zealand's youngest leader and a stable influence on the early colonial government. He held the post of premier on three different occasions - 1856 - 1861, 1865 - 1869, and 1872.

  • Domett, Alfred

    Alfred Domett was premier 1862-1863. Aside from politics he is remembered for establishing the Parliamentary Library and for his much-derided epic verse Ranolf and Amohia: A South-Sea Daydream.

  • Waterhouse, George Marsden

    George Waterhouse was premier of both South Australia (1861-1863) and New Zealand (1872-1873).

  • Pollen, Daniel

    Largely forgotten today, Daniel Pollen was considered a ‘safe man’ and a good administrator. In July 1875 he took over the premiership from Sir Julius Vogel, absent in Germany, although Harry Atkinson really ran things.

  • Atkinson, Harry Albert

    Biography of Harry Atkinson (1831-1892) who was premier of New Zealand four times. He was a stabilising force in early New Zealand politics and a figure who transcended regional interests for national views.

  • Hall, John

    John Hall was a force in our politics for several decades, serving as Premier and leading the parliamentary campaign for votes for women.