Minister of Foreign Affairs (New Zealand)
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
|Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade|
|Reports to||Prime Minister of New Zealand|
|Appointer||Governor-General of New Zealand|
|Term length||At Her Majesty's pleasure|
|Inaugural holder||James Allen|
|Formation||24 November 1919|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Winston Peters, who has held the position since 2017.
Responsibilities and powers
The Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for overseeing New Zealand's relations with foreign countries and the promotion of New Zealand's interests abroad. The Minister is in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including New Zealand's diplomatic staff. The office is often considered to be one of the more distinguished ministerial posts, and has at times been counted as the most senior role below that of the Prime Minister. In terms of actual political power, however, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not as prominent as in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the Minister of Finance being considerably more influential.
Historically, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been a member of Cabinet, with the exception of the Rt Hon. Winston Peters between 2005 and 2008. This situation came about as the result of coalition negotiations in which it was agreed that the New Zealand First Party would take a senior ministerial portfolio but would not join Cabinet.
The first New Zealand foreign minister was James Allen, appointed to the post of "Minister of External Affairs" by William Massey in 1919. Before this time, there was no dedicated ministerial portfolio for foreign relations. A Department of External Affairs was created in 1919 but its functions were limited to administering New Zealand's Island Territories in the Pacific; namely the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the League of Nations Mandate of Samoa. In 1943, a new Department of External Affairs was created to conduct the country's external relations. The older department was then renamed the Department of Island Territories and a separate portfolio called the Minister of Island Territories was subsequently created.
From 1943, the Minister of External Affairs became the main ministerial portfolio for conducting New Zealand's external relations. Like its similarly named Australian and Canadian counterparts, the portfolio was called "External Affairs" rather than "Foreign Affairs" in deference of the British Government’s responsibility for conducting foreign policy on behalf of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations. The title was changed to "Minister of Foreign Affairs" in 1970 after the Department was renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The title became "Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade" following the abandonment of the short-lived "Minister of External Relations and Trade" title, created in September 1988 when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs absorbed the Trade functions of the old Department of Trade and Industry. In 2005 responsibility for trade was split into a separate portfolio, with the title reverting to "Minister of Foreign Affairs".
Historically it has been common for Prime Ministers to take on the role of Foreign Minister themselves, particularly if they have an interest in the field. Several New Zealand Prime Ministers including Peter Fraser, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and David Lange held the External Affairs portfolio. The most recent Prime Minister to do this is Helen Clark in 2008 as Acting Minister, and prior to her was Mike Moore, in 1990. Thirteen Prime Ministers have served as Foreign Minister for all or part of their terms.
New Zealand has had 27 foreign ministers (regardless of exact title). The longest-serving was Keith Holyoake, who held the post for the duration of his 11-year premiership. The second longest-serving, and the longest-serving who was not also Prime Minister, was Don McKinnon, who became Commonwealth Secretary-General.
List of Ministers of Foreign Affairs
(for political parties)
|No.||Name||Portrait||Term of office||Prime Minister|
|1||James Allen||24 November 1919||28 April 1920||Massey|
|2||Ernest Lee||17 May 1920||13 January 1923|
|3||Francis Bell||7 June 1923||18 January 1926|
|4||William Nosworthy||24 May 1926||24 August 1928|
|5||Gordon Coates||25 August 1928||10 December 1928|
|6||Joseph Ward||10 December 1928||28 May 1930||Ward|
|7||George Forbes||28 May 1930||6 December 1935||Forbes|
|8||Michael Joseph Savage||6 December 1935||27 March 1940||Savage|
|9||Frank Langstone||1 April 1940||21 December 1942||Fraser|
|10||Peter Fraser||7 July 1943||13 December 1949|
|11||Frederick Doidge||13 December 1949||19 September 1951||Holland|
|12||Clifton Webb||19 September 1951||26 November 1954|
|13||Tom Macdonald||26 November 1954||12 December 1957|
|14||Walter Nash||12 December 1957||12 December 1960||Nash|
|15||Keith Holyoake||12 December 1960||8 December 1972||Holyoake|
|16||Norman Kirk||8 December 1972||31 August 1974||Kirk|
|17||Bill Rowling||6 September 1974||12 December 1975||Rowling|
|18||Brian Talboys||12 December 1975||11 December 1981||Muldoon|
|19||Warren Cooper||11 December 1981||26 July 1984|
|20||David Lange||26 July 1984||24 August 1987||Lange|
|21||Russell Marshall||24 August 1987||9 February 1990|
|22||Mike Moore||9 February 1990||2 November 1990|
|23||Don McKinnon||2 November 1990||10 December 1999||Bolger|
|24||Phil Goff||10 December 1999||19 October 2005||Clark|
|25||Winston Peters||19 October 2005||29 August 2008|
|29 August 2008||19 November 2008|
|26||Murray McCully||19 November 2008||2 May 2017||Key|
|27||Gerry Brownlee||2 May 2017||26 October 2017|
|(25)||Winston Peters||26 October 2017||Incumbent||Ardern|
- "Ministerial Portfolio: Foreign Affairs". The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- "External Affairs Bill", in New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 185 (3 October–5 November 1919), p.337.
- Malcolm Templeton, An Eye, an Ear, and a Voice: 50 years in New Zealand's External Relations, 1943-1993, p.1.
- Malcolm Templeton, ed., An Eye, An Ear, And a Voice, pp.1-2.
- Alan Watt, "The Department of Foreign Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World,Department of External Affairs (1921–70) ed. Zara Steiner (London: Times Books Limited, 1982), p.35; James Eary, "The Department of External Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World, p.96.