prime ministers

First Name: 
Simon William
30 Dec 1961

Like Jack Marshall, Bill English served a long political apprenticeship before becoming PM. After 26 years as an MP, including 11 as a Cabinet minister and eight as Deputy PM, English secured the top job in 2016. But like Marshall in 1972, his grip on power was to last a mere 10 months.

One of 12 children, English grew up in Dipton, Southland. After graduating from Victoria University and working for the Treasury in Wellington, he was elected as National MP for Wallace in 1990. From 1996 he represented the huge new electorate of Clutha-Southland, before becoming a list-only MP in 2014.

In 1996, aged just 34, English became a Cabinet minister in Jim Bolger’s government. He was briefly Jenny Shipley’s Minister of Finance in 1999, and following National’s defeat at that year’s election, succeeded her as party leader in October 2001. After leading National to its worst-ever election result in 2002, English was sacked the following year in favour of Don Brash.

When John Key became leader in 2006 the Southlander returned to the deputy role, and from 2008 to 2016 he served as deputy prime minister and minister of finance.

After succeeding Key in December 2016, English faced the challenge of securing his party a rare fourth term in government. His strong campaign performance helped National win 44.4% of the vote – almost the same share Key had achieved in 2008 – but without obvious allies in Parliament it wasn’t enough. English lost the prime ministership to Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, who was backed by New Zealand First and the Green Party.

By Neill Atkinson

Further information:

Ordered by: 
Ardern, Jacinda Kate Laurell
First Name: 
Jacinda Kate Laurell
26 Jul 1980

New Zealand’s third female PM, and at 37 our youngest leader since Edward Stafford in 1856, Jacinda Ardern had the most meteoric rise to power of any New Zealand PM – three months prior to being sworn in, she was not even leader of her party.

Like one of her political mentors, Helen Clark, Ardern grew up in Waikato, hardly a traditional Labour stronghold. She was raised as a Mormon, but left the church in 2005. After graduating from the University of Waikato, she worked in the offices of Phil Goff and Clark, and in Britain’s Cabinet and Home offices, and served as president of the International Union of Socialist Youth. After returning to New Zealand the 28-year-old entered Parliament on Labour’s list at the 2008 election.

Although she had long been identified as a rising star in New Zealand politics, Ardern began 2017 as a list MP in an opposition party that was languishing in the polls. In February she won a by-election in the electorate seat of Mt Albert – Helen Clark’s former stomping ground – and in March she became Labour’s deputy leader. Then on 1 August, less than eight weeks before election day, she succeeded Andrew Little as leader.

Ardern campaigned impressively against the vastly more experienced Bill English, and lifted Labour to a creditable 36.9% of the vote. After weeks of tense negotiations, on 19 October MMP ‘King-maker’ Winston Peters announced that his New Zealand First Party would form a coalition with Labour, who could also count on the support of the Green Party. With 63 seats between them, this was enough to install Ardern as our 40th PM.

By prime ministerial standards Ardern came into the role as a relative political novice, not having held Cabinet rank before. Even so, her nine-year parliamentary apprenticeship was longer than either David Lange or John Key had before becoming PM.

Like Clark, as PM Ardern took on the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio. She also announced she would be the minister responsible for child poverty reduction, a cause she had often described as being the reason she entered politics.

On 21 June 2018 she became only the second elected leader in the world (after Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto) to give birth while in office.

By Neill Atkinson

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Keith Holyoake and Lyndon B. Johnson

New Zealand Prime Minister Keith Holyoake with United States President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House, 1968.

Seddon and Ward, premier towns - roadside stories

Video about the Marlborough towns of Seddon and Ward

Inside Premier House in 1990

Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and his wife Margaret, during an 'at home' at Premier House

Robert Muldoon in Vogel House

Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, and his wife Thea, in 1977, in the kitchen of Vogel House, Lower Hutt

Vogel House

Vogel House in Lower Hutt in 1975, the year it became the official Prime Minister's residence.

Keith Holyoake at his Pipitea St house

Prime Minister Keith Holyoake photographed leaving his house in Pipitea Street, Wellington

Keith Holyoake shifting house

Prime Minister Holyoake helps out moving furniture into his new home

Michael Joseph Savage's Hill Haven home

Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage's home in Northland, Wellington

Premier House around 1906

The premier's house during the Ward government of 1906-12

Joseph Ward and family

Joseph Ward and his family outside the gates of Awarua House

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.
Not a Classroom Feature

Further information

This web feature was written by Gavin McLean and produced by the team.


Not a Classroom Feature


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