The 49th New Zealand Parliament was elected at the 2008 election. It comprised 122 members, including an overhang of two seats (an increase of one from the 48th Parliament) caused by the Māori Party having won two more electorate seats than its share of the party vote would otherwise have given it. The Parliament served from 2008 until the November 2011 election.
New Zealand uses the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system to elect its parliaments. Seventy of the members of the 49th Parliament represented geographical electorates: sixteen in the South Island, 47 in the North Island (one more than for the 48th Parliament) and seven Māori electorates. The remaining 52 (increased from fifty by the overhang) were elected from nationwide party vote candidate lists to realise proportionality.
The Representation Commission altered many of the boundaries of New Zealand's parliamentary electorates following the 2006 census; the large growth in population between censuses lead to significant boundary changes, particularly in Auckland, the area around Christchurch and the central North Island. In May 2007, the Representation Commission announced the boundary changes to take effect for the next general election, with the boundaries finalised in September 2007.
The Commission announced the formation of a new electorate in Greater Auckland, bringing the number of geographical constituencies to 70. The new electorate, originally dubbed "Howick" (after the Auckland suburb), would have included parts of the existing Pakuranga, Manukau East and Clevedon electorates. After Pakuranga electors strongly objected to the proposed changes (which would have seen the inclusion of the population centres Panmure, Point England and Glen Innes into the electorate) the Commission largely reverted proposed changes to the boundaries of the Pakuranga electorate. The Commission opted to alleviate population pressures by moving the Auckland City suburb of Otahuhu into Manukau East. The revised new electorate received the name Botany to reflect its focus on the growing population-centres of Botany Downs–Dannemora. On paper, Botany counts as a safe National seat.
Even though the number of South Island electorates remains fixed, the decline in the population of electorates south of Christchurch resulted in the boundaries of electorates from Invercargill north to Rakaia shifting northwards. The electorates of Aoraki, Otago, Rakaia and Banks Peninsula all gravitated towards Christchurch. In the process:
The figures below are based on official results A decrease of 7 MPs is shown for "Other Parties" because the New Zealand First party of Winston Peters did not win an electorate seat or 5% of the party vote, and hence was not allocated any seats in the new Parliament.
a The loss of seven seats by 'other parties' shown here compared to the 2005 election result was mostly due to NZ First failing to clear the MMP threshold while two independents, Gordon Copeland and Taito Phillip Field, who had split from their parties since the 2005 election lost their seats. b The Māori Party gained two overhang seats (increasing parliament's size from 120 to 122 seats) by virtue of gaining more electorate seats than their party vote would have otherwise given them. This was one more overhang seat than in 2005. c"Party Votes and Turnout by Electorate". Chief Electoral Office, New Zealand Ministry of Justice. Retrieved 2008-11-29. dThe turnout is given as a percentage of those enrolled to vote. In New Zealand, enrolment is compulsory, though voting is not. "New Zealand General Election 2008 - Official Results". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
Pansy Wong resigned in January 2011 following questions and a Speaker's investigation into her use of Ministerial travel privileges. Her portfolios were transferred to Hekia Parata who was raised to Cabinet to replace her. The resulting Botany by-election was won by Jami-Lee Ross.
Hone Harawira resigned from the Māori Party in February 2011 following a recommendation by the party's Disciplinary and Disputes Committee that the party's National Council expel him. He resigned from Parliament as an Independent MP effective 21 May causing a by-election in Te Tai Tokerau. Harawira announced his intention to run as a candidate for the Mana Party. On 6 July 2011 the results of the official count of votes found Harawira won by a majority of 1117.
Darren Hughes announced his intention to resign in March 2011 following an alleged incident involving him. Louisa Wall became the replacement for Hughes from the List for the remainder of the 49th Parliament.
John Carter announced his resignation from politics in June 2011 in favour of a High Commissioner's post in the Cook Islands; he was replaced as a Minister by Craig Foss. As he resigned within six months of a general election, a by-election does not need to be held in his Northland seat.