Members of Parliament 

What is the role of Parliament?

Parliament's many activities and purposes include:
  • making new laws - a lot of Parliamentary business is about making new laws or amending old ones
  • examining and approving Government taxes and spending - the Government has to get consent from Parliament to spend money or change taxes
Holding the Government to account through:
  • parliamentary questions, including question time, where MPs can ask Ministers about how they’re managing the country
  • select committee inquiries - a select committee inquiry can carry out an investigation on the Government’s performance

You can watch Parliamentary sessions live or view the seating plan via the Parliament website. 

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What’s the difference between Government and Parliament?

Government and Parliament are often confused – but they’re actually two very separate things.

Parliament consists of:

  • the Sovereign (represented by the Governor-General) and
  • the House of Representatives (elected Members of Parliament - MPs - who represent the people of New Zealand).

MPs make new laws and change existing laws, and try to ensure the Government is making the right decisions while spending its budget and carrying out the law (e.g. through its policies on things like the funding of healthcare).

Government is made up of the members of parliament who belong to the party (or parties) that received the most votes (that is, won) in the general election. The Prime Minister and Ministers are chosen from these MPs. (What is the difference between an MP and a Minister?) Each Minister has one or more portfolios, or a specific area that they deal with and run. For example, John Key is the Prime Minister, but he is also the Minister for Tourism.

Visit the official website of the New Zealand government.

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What is a Member of Parliament?

A Member of Parliament, or MP, is a representative of the people in the House of Representatives.

The role of a Member of Parliament is varied. An MP's duties include scrutinising, debating, developing and changing legislation. Their work includes communicating with the media and the public about the issues they are involved in.

The things which influence an MP's work include the values, policies and objectives of their party, their own personal values, the views of the public and of interest groups/organisations, and, if they are an electorate MP, the issues facing the people within their electorate.     

You can find details about former and current MPs on the Parliament website.
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How do I become an MP?

You can only be a candidate in a general election if you are a New Zealand citizen who is enrolled as a voter and is not disqualified from enrolling (e.g. serving a prison sentence disqualifies you). You also have to be nominated as a candidate, either by the secretary of your political party or by two voters who are enrolled in your electorate.

In an election, a voter gets two votes: one for a person to represent their electorate and one for the political party they want to form the government. 

Therefore, you can become an MP in two different ways. You can become an electorate MP by being elected by the people in that community. Otherwise, if you are a member of a political party you can become a “list MP”, which means you are chosen by your political party and given a ranking on their list. How many people on that list become MPs depends on how many party votes the party wins. If you are high up on the list, you are more likely to get a seat in the House.   

It is possible to stand for a particular electorate, and also be included on the party list.

The Electoral Commission has a handbook for people who will be standing in a general or by-election, on their Elections website.

Find out how much MPs get paid.

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What is an electorate?

An electorate, or an electoral district, is a geographic area of voters who are enrolled to vote in an election. Voters will normally go to a polling booth in their electoral district to cast their votes on election day. If a voter is going to be outside their electoral district on that day, they can cast a special vote. You can also vote early using ‘advance voting’, this is generally much easier than casting a special vote.

Each electorate is represented in Parliament by an elected MP; therefore, the MP representing your electorate - the electorate you live in -  is the MP representing you in Parliament.

Read the electorate profile for where you live.

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What is the difference between an MP and a Minister?

MPs are representatives of the public in Parliament. They gain the position of MP either :

  • by winning the majority of electorate votes in their electoral district or
  • because their party gained at least 5% of the party vote in a general election and they were sufficiently high up on their party's list to become a list MP.

Ministers are MPs who have been selected by the Prime Minister to look after particular portfolios, or areas of Government services, such as health, education, welfare, or finance.

Ministers are usually MPs from within the political party, or coalition (or grouping) of political parties, that form the Government. They set the policy direction and the priorities for their departments. The heads of the Government departments (which provide the services to the public) are answerable to their Ministers.          

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How many MPs does New Zealand have?

There are generally 120 MPs in Parliament - 70 electorate MPs (including seven Maori electorate MPs) and 50 list MPs.

The list MPs are selected from party lists in proportion to the number of votes cast for each party (e.g. if they got 30% of the party vote then they get 30% of the 120 seats).

However the total number of MPs can occasionally vary from the total of 120. If a political party wins more electorate seats than the number determined by the party vote, those extra seats (known as "overhang seats") are not taken out of the 120. This results in an increase of the total number of MPs, at least until the next election.

More about this is on the New Zealand Parliament website.

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Who are the current MPs?

You can find out who the current Members of Parliament are, and what party they belong to, by visiting the New Zealand Parliament website. You can also check what expenses they have claimed each year.

Who are the current Ministers?

A list of the current Ministers in cabinet is available online at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website