Premiers and Prime Ministers

Page 1 – Introduction

Richard Seddon and his cabinet, 1906
Richard Seddon and his cabinet, 1906

From Henry Sewell in 1856 to Bill English in 2016, New Zealand has had 39 premiers and prime ministers. In the 19th century these political Cabinet-makers were usually known as ‘premiers’. But since 1906, beginning with William Hall-Jones, all our leaders have been sworn in as ‘prime minister’.

Hall-Jones was only PM for about six months, but his was far from the shortest term – Harry Atkinson's third spell as premier in 1884 lasted just eight days, while Sewell was only in charge for two weeks. In contrast, our longest-serving leader, Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon, ran the country for a remarkable 13 years. On assuming office, our PMs have ranged in age from 37 to 75 years. New Zealand has had Catholic and Jewish leaders, and in recent years Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark have gatecrashed this previously all-male club. But the country is still waiting for its first Maori PM.

Read biographies of all 39 premiers and prime ministers, discover more about the role's British heritage and political origins, and explore fascinating prime ministerial facts and trivia.

How to cite this page

'Premiers and Prime Ministers', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/premiers-and-pms, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 12-Dec-2016