Central & Local Government information

 New Zealand Government Information

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. The New Zealand Government is formed from a democratically elected House of Representatives. The Government advises our head of State who is the Queen, who acts on the advice of the Government in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The Queen is represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General.

The Member of Parliament who can command majority support from the other members is asked by the Governor-General to form a Government by taking office as Prime Minister and recommending to the Governor-General the appointment of other members as Ministers of the Crown.  Ministers are appointed to the executive Council, which is the body that gives advice to the Governor-General.  What advice is given is determined by the Cabinet – comprised of most Minsters and chaired by the Prime Minister.

Parliament consists of the Crown and the House of Representatives; Parliament makes laws and holds the Government to account over its policies, actions, and spending.

For information about the New Zealand Parliament go to:http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/Default.htm

This is an excellent site that has links following the progress of bills through the house; the business of select committees discussing the bills, and parliamentary debates about the bills.  You can also make submissions on bills from this site: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/sc/make-submission/.

An excellent book on New Zealand parliamentary practice is Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand by David McGee.  This book is held as a reference book in the Elma Turner Library at 328.93 MACG


New Zealand Legislation is drafted and published by The Parliamentary Counsel Office

The Elma Turner Library is a depository library for New Zealand Government information and we hold all New Zealand legislation in hard copy.  All Acts, Bills and Regulations can also be found online at: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/  

Elma Turner Library also holds the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (sometimes known as "the A to Js"). These are a collection of government-related reports published every year from 1858. The reports cover many subjects, documenting the work of government departments and a wide range of other activities carried out by, or of interest to, the government of the day.  The A to Js provide a wealth of information for researchers working across many fields. These are also available online from the National Library at http://atojs.natlib.govt.nz, for the years 1862-1879. [Either search or browse]

The Parliamentary Counsel Office has also scanned copies of the original form of all New Zealand Acts from 1847-2007 at http://www.nzlii.org/nz/legis/hist_act/.  All these acts are in pdf format and do not include any later amendments or show whether they have been repealed

Online links

Government departments

Government departments and ministries are specialised organisations responsible for a sector of government public administration.  Departmental and ministerial websites will have information about their sectors and any work currently open for public consultation. 

An index of all Government departments can be found at: http://newzealand.govt.nz/.  This site also has information, images and resources from all New Zealand government agencies and government funded sites.

Official statistics

Statistics New Zealand is the government department that collects and supplies official facts and figures about New Zealanders and how they live and work. 

If you need help finding official statistics ask anyone at the Information Services desk in the Elma Turner Library for assistance. 

Two other good sources of government statistical information are:


The New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings is the official count of how many people and dwellings there are in New Zealand. The census provides a ‘snapshot’ of society at a point in time. Official counting of people in New Zealand goes back to1842, but the first official national population census was held in 1851.

Census returns (ie the forms completed by individuals) are a valuable source of genealogical information, however until the introduction of the Public Records Act 2005, the NZ Government, in the interest of privacy,  destroyed all  forms once data had been recorded from them. Previously, New Zealand law had been silent on whether census forms should be kept or destroyed. Canterbury Provincial Council was the exception, legislating in 1855 to keep the schedules from its provincial censuses. Unfortunately, over time even theirs have not survived.

When the1993 Privacy Act was passed, the Government  introduced a principle of not keeping personal information “for longer than necessary”. The Government Statistician decided to destroy most of the 1996 Census forms, keeping only a 7% sample for statistical research purposes. A public campaign led to respondents being allowed to specify whether their individual 2001 Census forms should be kept. About 60% agreed to their forms being kept. Further campaigning from a wide range of people interested in preserving historic documents contributed to the passing of the Public Records Act 2005 which required Statistics NZ to keep all census forms from the 2006 Census onward. The same law allows the government statistician to release them for research after 100 years. (Source Census NZ)

 Local Government Information

In New Zealand there are 12 regional councils and 73 territorial authorities. Of the 73 territorial authorities, 16 are city councils, 57 are district councils and 6 are unitary authorities.The 6 unitary authorities have both regional and local council responsibilities and functions.

The Nelson City Council, the Tasman District Council and the Marlborough District Council are all unitary authorities.

The website Local Government New Zealand contains information about all local Councils.

Under the Local Government Act 2002 councils are subject to planning and management disciplines including:

  • preparing annual plans and budgets in consultation with their communities
  • reporting annually on performance in relation to plans
  • preparing long-term financial strategies including funding, borrowing management and investment policies
  • adopting accrual accounting practices
  • valuing their assets
  • separating policy/regulatory from operational functions
  • preparing policies and plans concerning other functions, especially resource management, land transport and biosecurity.

The Act acknowledges that achieving community well-being requires effective, responsible and accountable local government.  The Act promotes engagement with local communities and responsiveness to their wishes through community outcome processes and long-term council community plans (LTCCP).

Community outcomes describe what New Zealanders think is important for their local community, now and in the future. 

Useful links:

Local Statistics

Regional statistical information can be collated from the Statistics New Zealand Website: http://www.stats.govt.nz/

If you need help finding official statistics contact the Information Services team at Elma Turner Library. 

Other sources:

 New Zealand Electoral System

Until 1993 New Zealand elections were held under the first-past-the-post (FPP) system; each voter had one vote and the candidate who received the most votes in each electorate was the winner. Successful candidates did not need to win an absolute majority (that is, more than 50%) of the votes cast.

In 1993 New Zealanders voted in a referendum to change their voting system from the FPP method to Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP). Parties getting seats in parliament get a share of seats close to their share of party votes.  A party's share of seats is filled first by any of its candidates who win electorate seats and then by taking other candidates from the party list. A party will get seats in parliament based on its party vote if it wins 5% or more of all the party votes, or one or more electorate seats.

A referendum will be held in conjunction with the 2011 general election asking two questions of voters:

  • whether they wish to retain MMP
  • which of a list of options is their preferred alternative voting system.

If the majority vote to retain MMP no further action will be taken.  If the majority vote for change, the Government will hold a second referendum at the time of the 2014 election that will ask voters to choose between MMP and the most preferred alternative system.  If the majority vote for a new system in 2014 the new system will be in place for the 2017 general election.

Further information about our electoral system.