Prime Ministers Of New Zealand Through History

The first years of the official position saw the NZ head of state change hands back and forth between a small group of Kiwi elites.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand is the head of the government and must belong to the majority party in Parliament. This position control the issues that the Cabinet will discuss and the power to appoint ministers. New Zealand has had a prime minister since 1856 and there have been 38 people to hold this position since then. It has the interesting distinction of being one of few countries to have had 2 women as heads of government. The following article takes a look at a few of the most notable prime ministers this country has had.

Notable Prime Ministers of New Zealand

Notable New Zealander PMs of the 1800s

The first prime minister of New Zealand was Henry Sewell although this was before the country referred to the position as such. He only served for 13 days. His government and cabinet were strongly Centralist and not very popular thus allowing William Fox, the 2nd prime minister, to defeat him. Fox also served for a total of 13 days and was defeated by Edward Stafford, the first prime minister to serve for a number of years. He actually served on separate occasions and when taken together, is the longest serving prime minister of New Zealand. Stafford was the first to establish a working relationship between the central and provincial governments. After the government was made more stable by Stafford, several other individuals held the prime minister position. One of the most prominent of them was John Hall. He served from October 8, 1879 to April 21, 1882 and extended voting rights to both men and women. Hall pushed the Parliamentary Bill that would later give women the right to vote.

Into the 20th Century

The next prime minister of note is Richard Seddon, who also served longer than any of the others in the same position. He is most remembered for his Old-Age Pensions Act which became the basis for New Zealand state welfare years later. After several other prime ministers, William Massey took office from July 10, 1912 until May 10, 1925 when he passed away. He saw the country through World War I when he declared that the conditions for the military members were unsatisfactory. During his terms, home ownership rates increased and the government increased spending on public works like electricity, education, and roads. Jumping ahead a few decades, New Zealand finally had its first New Zealand-born prime minister. Norman Kirk served the country from December 8, 1972 to August 31, 1974. This prime minister worked to increase foreign affairs and improve relationships with Asia and Africa. He is also responsible for withdrawing the troops from an 8 year occupation in Vietnam. He was a proponent of human rights and prohibited a visit from the South African rugby team because he disagreed with the apartheid regime and its refusal to racially integrate the team. He suffered from diabetes and overall poor health and despite recommendations from several doctors and his staff, he refused to take time off until it was almost too late. Five days after decided to take a 6-week medical leave, he passed away.

More Recent PMs of New Zealand

Twenty-three years later, New Zealand saw its first female prime minister. Jenny Shipley served from December 8, 1997 to December 5, 1999. She was the first prime minister to attend the gay and lesbian Hero parade in order to garner gay and lesbian support for her party. She also supported lowering the legal alcohol consumption age to 18 from 20. Again, this was in an attempt to win more support for the National Party. Since Shipley, several other notable individuals have served as Prime Minister of New Zealand. The current Prime Minister of New Zealand is National Party member John Key, a Member of Parliament representing the Helensville Electorate. A full list of these officials and their years in office can be found below.

Powers and Privileges of the Prime Minister

The prime minister position is modeled after the same position in England. This official holds the sole power of advising the Queen and does so concerning who to appoint as Governor-General and who to award recognition via the New Zealand Royal Honors System. The person holding this office also has the privilege of residing in the Premier House located in Wellington.

Prime Ministers Of New Zealand Through History

RankPrime Ministers Of New ZealandYear(s) In Office
1Henry Sewell 1856
2William Fox 1856; 1861-1862; 1869-1872; 1873
3Edward Stafford 1856-1861; 1865-1869; 1872
4Alfred Domett 1862-1863
5Frederick Whitaker 1863-1864; 1882-1883
6Frederick Weld 1864-1865
7George Waterhouse 1872-1873
8Julius Vogel 1873-1875; 1876
9Daniel Pollen 1875-1876
10Harry Atkinson 1876-1877; 1883-1884; 1884; 1887-1891
11George Grey 1877-1879
12John Hall 1879-1882
13Robert Stout 1884; 1884-1887
14John Balance 1891-1893
15Richard Seddon 1893-1906
16William Hall-Jones 1906
17Joseph Ward 1906-1912; 1928-1930
18Thomas Mackenzie 1912
19William Massey 1912-1925
20Francis Bell 1925
21Gordon Coates 1925-1928
22Goerge Forbes 1930-1935
23Michael Joseph Savage 1935-1940
24Peter Fraser 1940-1949
25Sidney Holland 1949-1957
26Keith Hollyoake 1957; 1960-1972
27Walter Nash 1957-1960
28Jack Marshall 1972
29Norman Kirk 1972-1974
30Hugh Watt 1974
31Bill Rowling 1974-1975
32Robert Muldoon 1975-1984
33David Lange 1984-1989
34Geoffrey Palmer 1989-1990
35Mike Moore 1990
36Jim Bolger 1990-1997
37Jenny Shipley 1997-1999
38Helen Clark 1999-2008
39John Key 2008-Present

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