Cabinet of New Zealand

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The Cabinet of New Zealand (in Māori: Te Rūnanga o te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa) functions as the policy and decision-making body of the executive branch within the New Zealand government system. The Prime Minister and many Ministers of the Crown serve as members of the Cabinet.

All Cabinet ministers also serve as members of the Executive Council, which advises the Governor-General.

Legislative basis[edit]

No legislative act established the Cabinet: rather, it exists purely by constitutional convention. This convention carries sufficient weight for many official declarations and regulations to refer to the Cabinet, and a government department exists with responsibility for supporting it (the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet). Although Cabinet lacks any direct legislative framework for its existence, the Cabinet Manual has become the official document which governs its functions, and on which its convention rests.

The structure of Cabinet has as its basis the formal institution known as the Executive Council. Most Ministers hold membership of both bodies, but some Executive Councillors – known as "ministers outside Cabinet" – do not have Cabinet positions.

The convention of members of the Executive Council meeting separately from the Governor began during Edward Stafford's first tenure as Premier (1856–1861). Stafford, a long-time advocate of responsible government in New Zealand, believed the colonial government should have full control over all its affairs, without the intervention of the Governor. Because the Governor chaired the Executive Council, Stafford intentionally met with his ministers without the Governor present.


The lack of formal legislation establishing Cabinet leaves the powers of its members only loosely defined. However, convention regarding the Cabinet's authority has considerable force, and generally proves strong enough to bind its participants. Theoretically, each minister operates independently, having received a ministerial warrant over a certain field from the Crown (represented by the Governor-General). But the Governor-General can dismiss a minister at any time, conventionally on the advice of the Prime Minister, so ministers are largely obliged to work within a certain framework.

Cabinet itself acts as the accepted forum for establishing this framework. Ministers will jointly discuss the policy which the government as a whole will pursue, and ministers who do not exercise their respective powers in a manner compatible with Cabinet's decision risk losing those powers. This has become known as the doctrine of collective responsibility. Problems arise when the Prime Minister breaches collective responsibility. Since ministerial appointments and dismissals are in practice in the hands of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet can not directly initiate any action against a Prime Minister who openly disagrees with his government's policy. On the other hand, a Prime Minister who tries to act against concerted opposition from his Cabinet risks losing the confidence of his party colleagues. An example is former Prime Minister David Lange, who publicly spoke against a tax reform package which was sponsored by then-Finance Minister Roger Douglas and supported by Cabinet. Lange dismissed Douglas, but when the Cabinet supported Douglas against Lange, Lange himself resigned as Prime Minister.

Portfolios represented[edit]

Currently, significant ministers include:

Other ministers (some outside Cabinet) include:

Styles of address of members[edit]

All minister have the style of "The Honourable", except for the Prime Minister, who is styled "The Right Honourable".


The Ministers of the Fifth Labour Government in 2005, with then Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, 20 October 2005.

A Cabinet Committee comprises a subset of the larger Cabinet, consisting of a number of ministers who have responsibility in related areas of policy. Cabinet Committees go into considerably more detail than can be achieved at regular Cabinet meetings, discussing issues which do not need the input of ministers holding unrelated portfolios.

Cabinet Committees will often discuss matters referred to them by Cabinet itself, and then report back the results of their deliberation. This can sometimes become a powerful tool for advancing certain policies, as was demonstrated in the Lange government. Roger Douglas, Minister of Finance, and his allies succeeded in dominating the finance committee, enabling them to determine what it recommended to Cabinet. The official recommendation of the finance committee was much harder for his opponents to fight than his individual claims in Cabinet would be. Douglas was able to pass measures that, had Cabinet deliberated on them itself rather than pass them to Committee, would have been defeated.

Currently eight standing Cabinet Committees exist, of varying importance:

  • Policy Committee
  • Economic Development Committee
  • Social Development Committee
  • Legislation Committee
  • Government Expenditure and Administration Committee
  • Appointments and Honours Committee
  • External Relations and Defence Committee
  • Domestic and External Security Coordination Committee

Other Cabinet Committees may emerge on a temporary basis, with the purpose of investigating an issue of relevance at the time.

Members and other ministers[edit]

The tables below list New Zealand's cabinet ministers and ministers outside Cabinet.

Cabinet ministers

Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities
John Key


  • Prime Minister
  • Minister for National Security and Intelligence
  • Minister of Tourism
  • Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services
Bill English


Gerry Brownlee


  • Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
  • Minister of Defence
  • Leader of the House
  • Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
Steven Joyce


  • Minister for Economic Development
  • Minister for Regulatory Reform
  • Minister of Science and Innovation
  • Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
  • Minister Responsible for Novopay
  • Associate Minister of Finance
Paula Bennett


  • Minister of Local Government
  • Minister for Social Housing
  • Minister of State Services
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Tourism
Jonathan Coleman


Amy Adams


  • Minister of Justice
  • Minister for Courts
  • Minister of Broadcasting
  • MInister for Communications
Chris Finlayson


Simon Bridges


  • Minister of Energy and Resources
  • Minister of Transport
  • Deputy Leader of the House
  • Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues
  • Associate Minister of Justice
Hekia Parata


  • Minister of Education
Anne Tolley


  • Minister for Social Development
Nick Smith


  • Minister for the Environment
  • Minister for Building and Housing
Murray McCully


Nathan Guy


  • Minister for Primary Industries
  • Minister for Racing
Nikki Kaye


Tim Groser


  • Minister of Trade
  • Minister for Climate Change Issues
Michael Woodhouse


  • Minister of Immigration
  • Minister of Police
  • Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
Todd McClay


  • Minister of Revenue
  • Minister for State Owned Enterprises
  • Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Associate Minister for Trade
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga


  • Minister of Corrections
  • Minister for Ethnic Communities
  • Minister for Pacific Peoples
  • Associate Minister of Health
Maggie Barry


  • Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
  • Minister of Conservation
  • Minister for Senior Citizens

Ministers outside Cabinet

Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities
Craig Foss


  • Minister for Small Business
  • Minister of Statistics
  • Minister of Veterans' Affairs
  • Associate Minister of Immigration
  • Associate Minister of Transport
Jo Goodhew


  • Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Minister for Food Safety
  • Associate Minister for Primary Industries
  • Associate Minister for Social Development
Nicky Wagner


  • Minister of Customs
  • Minister for Disability Issues
  • Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
  • Associate Minister of Conservation
Louise Upston


  • Minister for Land Information
  • Minister for Women
  • Associate Minister of Local Government
  • Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
Paul Goldsmith


Ministers outside Cabinet from other parties with confidence and supply agreements

Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities
Peter Dunne

(United Future)

  • Minister of Internal Affairs
  • Associate Minister of Conservation
  • Associate Minister of Health
Te Ururoa Flavell

(Māori Party)

David Seymour

(ACT Party)

  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education
  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Regulatory Reform