Government (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about the New Zealand government system?

Image: The Seat of Government by Ewan Munro on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 05/08/20


New Zealand has a democratic system of government, with elections taking place every three years. The head of government is the Prime Minister. The system of government is also called a constitutional monarchy, which means it has a constitution (rules of government) and a Monarch or Head of State who is Queen Elizabeth II.

History of Government

Although New Zealand now governs independently, it has had a long association with Great Britain. In the resources below you will find information about New Zealand's journey from European settlement, to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the provincial government years, its dominion status through to independence.

Te Ara : the encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Look for Sections on the front page of the website.
  • Choose Government and Nation, then Institutions of Government, and then the story Colonial and provincial government for early history.
  • From Sections find New Zealand in Brief and then the story Nation and government for further history.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


NZHistory is another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. It also belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • From the homepage, select Politics and Government
  • For information about key moments in New Zealand's political history look at the articles under Political milestones eg Political and constitutional timeline.
  • Look at articles under other headings to find information about other parts of New Zealand's governmental history eg The work of the government traces how this changed over time.
Tips: We like sites that are from government organisations because we can trust the information. You can tell these sites by their web address - New Zealand sites have .govt in the address.

Politics and parties

For many years the National and Labour parties dominated the New Zealand elections under the First-Past-the-Post system. But with the introduction of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) in 1996, smaller parties are now able to win representation in parliament and can play a vital part in forming the government with coalitions and confidence and supply agreements.

Te Ara : the encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara also has information about the development of the political party system in New Zealand from the 1890s through to the present day.

  • From the front page select Government and Nation.
  • Then go to Political participation.
  • Choose the article Political parties.

This is the official website of the New Zealand Government and here you can find information about Government initiatives, policies, and Ministers and their portfolios. Ministers and their portfolios .

  • Select a Minister or Portfolio from the drop down menus to find press releases about related initiatives and policies.

Electoral Commission

This website is the official government site for New Zealand's general or parliamentary elections.

Tips: Some websites have .au, .nz, .uk or other codes in their url. This can tell you which country this website comes from eg .au is from Australia or .nz is from New Zealand. You can check the About us link on the website for more information.


Parliament makes the laws for New Zealand and approves government spending. It is made up of the House of representatives (Members of Parliament) and is opened and closed by the Governor General, who is a representative of the Queen.

Te Ara : the encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara has a good overview of the New Zealand Parliament.

  • Choose Stories A-Z.
  • Select Cabinet government to find out about what cabinet does.
  • Select Constitution to find out about the rules that set out how the government can use its power.
  • Select Parliament where you find information about how parliament works and terms like coalitions, Whips, Parliamentary privilege and Select Committees.


This site also has information about Parliament buildings, Parliament's culture and traditions, the House of representatives and more.

New Zealand Parliament

This is the official website of the New Zealand Parliament. It has lots of information about what happens in parliament , how members are chosen, how laws are made and the different roles people have.

Tips: Watch live broadcasts and listen to audio programmes from the New Zealand Parliament by selecting the 'Watch' and 'Listen' links from the front page.

Government organisations

The New Zealand government is responsible for many services and agencies that people need to access in their day to day lives. Things like health, education, work, tax and immigration are just some.

New Zealand Government

The New Zealand government website provides information about how to find and access these services.

  • Select Government A-Z for a list that links to all government departments.
  • Selecting will take you to a website that has lots of data (statistics) on Health, Education, Transport and more.
  • Go to Engaging with government to find an easy to read summary about How government works.

Government in images and media

If you are looking for images of Prime Ministers, government buildings etc, current and historical magazine and newspaper articles and other media then the websites below may help.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. It’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources.

  • Use the search bar to enter your keywords eg 'government' or 'parliament.'
  • The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [government]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.


This site has up-to-the-minute New Zealand news and press releases. It's a good source for some different points of view.

  • Look for the tabs Parliament and Politics.
  • Or search for the issue you are interested in, like 'housing'.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.


This is a great website for New Zealand television, videos, and primary source material.

  • Go to the Collections tab at the top of the page.
  • Select Politics.
  • Here you can watch political debates and find out about New Zealand politicians.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.


Your local public library or school library may have some books about the New Zealand government. Here are some suggestions:

SCIS no: 1887010

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