Cabinet of New Zealand

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The Cabinet of New Zealand (Māori: Te Rūnanga o te Kāwanatanga o Aotearoa) is a body of senior ministers, responsible to the New Zealand Parliament. Cabinet meetings, chaired by the Prime Minister, occur once a week; in them, vital issues are discussed and government policy is formulated. Though not established by any statue, cabinet has significant power in the New Zealand political system and nearly all bills proposed by the cabinet in Parliament are enacted.

All cabinet ministers also serve as members of the Executive Council, the body tasked with advising the Governor General in the exercise of his or her formal constitutional functions. Outside the cabinet, there is an outer ministry and also a number of non-cabinet ministers, responsible for a specific policy area and reporting directly to a senior cabinet minister.

Legislative basis

The cabinet has no formal statutory basis and is not established by any legislative act: 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—the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—is responsibile for supporting it. 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.[1]

The structure of cabinet has as its basis the formal institution known as the Executive Council, the body tasked with advising the Governor General in the exercise of his or her formal constitutional functions (i.e. the Governor-in-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.


All ministers have the style of "The Honourable", except for the Prime Minister, who is styled "The Right Honourable".[2] Additionally, Winston Peters is styled as The Right Honourable, having been appointed a member of the Privy Council prior to the change in rules regarding the use of the style.[3]

The table below lists New Zealand's cabinet ministers and ministers outside Cabinet as of 26 October 2017.[4]

NZ First
Ranking Portfolios Incumbent Responsibilities Electorate
1. Prime Minister
Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Minister for National Security and Intelligence
Leader of the Labour Party
The Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern MP Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Mt Albert
2. Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister for State Owned Enterprises
Minister for Racing
Leader of New Zealand First
The Rt. Hon. Winston Peters MP List
3. Minister for Crown/Maori Relations
Minister of Corrections
Minister of Tourism
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
The Hon. Kelvin Davis MP Associate Minister of Education (Maori Education) Te Tai Tokerau
4. Minister of Finance
Minister for Sport and Recreation
The Hon. Grant Robertson MP Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Wellington Central
5. Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Minister of Transport
The Hon. Phil Twyford MP Te Atatū
6. Minister of Energy and Resources
Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration
Minister of Research, Science and Innovation
The Hon. Dr. Megan Woods MP Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission Wigram
7. Minister of Education
Minister of State Services
The Hon. Chris Hipkins MP Leader of the House
Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services
8. Minister of Justice
Minister for Courts
Minister Responsible for GCSB
Minister Responsible for NZSIS
Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
The Hon. Andrew Little MP Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry List
9. Minister for Social Development
Minister for Disability Issues
The Hon. Carmel Sepuloni MP Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
Associate Minister for Pacific Peoples
10. Minister of Health The Hon. Dr David Clark MP Associate Minister of Finance Dunedin North
11. Attorney-General
Minister for Economic Development
Minister for the Environment
Minister for Trade and Export Growth
The Hon. David Parker MP Associate Minister of Finance List
12. Minister for Maori Development
Minister of Local Government
The Hon. Nanaia Mahuta MP Associate Minister for the Environment Hauraki-Waikato
13. Minister of Police
Minister of Fisheries
Minister of Revenue
Minister for Small Business
The Hon. Stuart Nash MP Napier
14. Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
Minister of Immigration
Minister of ACC
The Hon. Iain Lees-Galloway MP Deputy Leader of the House Palmerston North
15. Minister for Building and Construction
Minister for Ethnic Communities
The Hon. Jenny Salesa MP Associate Minister of Education
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Manukau East
16. Minister of Agriculture
Minister for Biosecurity
Minister for Food Safety
Minister for Rural Communities
The Hon. Damien O'Connor MP Associate Minister of Trade and Export Growth West Coast-Tasman
17. Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
Minister for Government Digital Services
The Hon. Clare Curran MP Associate Minister for ACC
Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government)
Dunedin South
18. Minister of Defence
Minister for Veterans
Deputy Leader of New Zealand First
The Hon. Ron Mark MP List
19. Minister for Children
Minister of Internal Affairs
Minister for Seniors
The Hon. Tracey Martin MP Associate Minister of Education List
20. Minister of Forestry
Minister for Infrastructure
Minister for Regional Economic Development
The Hon. Shane Jones MP Associate Minister of Finance
Associate Minister of Transport
21. Minister of Civil Defence
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
The Hon. Kris Faafoi MP Associate Minister of Immigration Mana
22. Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
Minister for Whānau Ora
Minister for Youth
The Hon. Peeni Henare MP Associate Minister for Social Development Tāmaki Makaurau
23. Minister for Employment The Hon. Willie Jackson MP Associate Minister for Maori Development List
24. Minister for Pacific Peoples The Hon. Aupito William Sio MP Associate Minister for Courts
Associate Minister of Justice
25. Minister of Customs The Hon. Meka Whaitiri MP Associate Minister of Agriculture
Associate Minister for Crown/Maori Relations
Associate Minister of Local Government
- Minister for Climate Change
Minister of Statistics
The Hon. James Shaw MP Associate Minister of Finance List
- Minister for Women The Hon. Julie Anne Genter MP Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister of Transport
- Minister of Conservation
Minister for Land Information
The Hon. Eugenie Sage MP Associate Minister for the Environment List
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities Michael Wood MP Mount Roskill
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Regional Economic Development
Fletcher Tabuteau MP List
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice (Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues) Jan Logie MP List

All Ministers, both inside and outside Cabinet are Executive Council Members.

Parliamentary Private Secretaries have no Government rank, but merely assist the Ministers from a Parliamentary standpoint, and represent the Minister they assist when they are unavailable.[5]


The lack of formal legislation establishing Cabinet leaves the powers of its members only loosely defined. The Cabinet generally directs and controls policy (releasing government policy statements) and is responsible to Parliament. It also has significant influence over lawmaking. 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.[6] 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 their government's policy. On the other hand, a Prime Minister who tries to act against concerted opposition from their Cabinet risks losing the confidence of their 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.


The ministers of the Sixth Labour Government, with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, 26 October 2017

The Cabinet typically meets weekly in the Beehive (the executive wing of the Parliament Buildings),[2] where it discusses important political issues. The Prime Minister usually chairs the meeting and sets the agenda.


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. There are currently 10 Cabinet Committees.[7]

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.

Cabinet committee membership

Cabinet Legislation Committee (LEG) Cabinet Appointments and Honours Committee (APH) Cabinet Business Committee (CBC)
Chair Hon Chris Hipkins Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Hon Andrew Little
Hon David Parker
Hon Stuart Nash
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
Hon Damien O'Connor
Hon Tracey Martin
Hon James Shaw
Hon Eugenie Sage
Hon Ruth Dyson (Senior Government Whip)

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Hon Kelvin Davis
Hon Grant Robertson
Hon Chris Hipkins
Hon Andrew Little
Hon Dr David Clark
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Hon Jenny Salesa
Hon Tracey Martin
Hon Peeni Henare
Hon Aupito William Sio
Hon James Shaw
Hon Julie Anne Genter

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Hon Kelvin Davis
Hon Grant Robertson
Hon Phil Twyford
Hon Dr Megan Woods
Hon Chris Hipkins
Hon Andrew Little
Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Hon Dr David Clark
Hon Tracey Martin


  1. ^ "Cabinet Manual". Cabinet Office of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Cabinet government". Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  3. ^ ""The Honourable" and "The Right Honourable"". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 26 October 2017. 
  4. ^ "Ministerial list for Announcement" (PDF). Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  5. ^ "Parliamentary Private Secretaries appointed". The Beehive. Retrieved 2017-05-30. 
  6. ^ "Cabinet Manual: Cabinet". Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Cabinet Committees | DPMC". Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
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