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Cabinet of New Zealand


Cabinet of New Zealand

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand

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 1
  • Powers 2
  • Portfolios represented 3
    • Styles of address of members 3.1
  • Committees 4
  • Members and other ministers 5
  • References 6

Legislative basis

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

Currently, significant ministers include:

Other ministers (some outside Cabinet) include:

Styles of address of members

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

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

Cabinet ministers
Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities Contact phone numbers[1]
John Key


  • Prime Minister
  • Minister for National Security and Intelligence
  • Minister of Tourism
  • Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services
  • (04) 817 6800 (Parliament)
  • (09) 412 2496 (Helensville)
Bill English


  • (04) 817 6801 (Parliament)
Gerry Brownlee


  • Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
  • Minister of Defence
  • Leader of the House
  • Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
  • (04) 817 9853 (Parliament)
  • (03) 359 0582 (Ilam)
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
  • (04) 817 6813 (Parliament)
Paula Bennett


  • Minister of Local Government
  • Minister for Social Housing
  • Minister of State Services
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Tourism
  • (04) 817 6815 (Parliament)
  • (09) 838 8161 (Waitakere)
Jonathan Coleman


  • (04) 817 6818 (Parliament)
  • (09) 419 8021 (Northcote)
Amy Adams


  • Minister of Justice
  • Minister for Courts
  • Minister of Broadcasting
  • Minister for Communications
  • (04) 817 9910 (Parliament)
  • (03) 344 0418 (Selwyn)
Chris Finlayson


  • (04) 817 6808 (Parliament)
  • (04) 801 6130 (Rongotai)
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
  • (04) 817 6835 (Parliament)
  • (07) 579 9016 (Tauranga)
Hekia Parata


  • Minister of Education
  • (04) 817 6829 (Parliament)
  • (04) 237 0746 (Mana)
Anne Tolley


  • Minister for Social Development
  • (04) 817 6807 (Parliament)
  • (06) 867 7571 (Gisborne)
  • (07) 307 1254 (Whakatane)
Nick Smith


  • Minister for the Environment
  • Minister for Building and Housing
  • (04) 817 6805 (Parliament)
  • (03) 547 2314 (Nelson)
Murray McCully


  • (04) 817 6810 (Parliament)
  • (09) 478 0207 (East Coast Bays)
Nathan Guy


  • Minister for Primary Industries
  • Minister for Racing
  • (04) 817 6821 (Parliament)
  • (06) 367 9110 (Levin)
  • (04) 298 2906 (Paraparaumu)
Nikki Kaye


  • (04) 817 6837 (Parliament)
  • (09) 378 2088 (Auckland Central)
Tim Groser


  • Minister of Trade
  • Minister for Climate Change Issues
  • (04) 817 6811 (Parliament)
  • (09) 827 8985 (New Lynn)
Michael Woodhouse


  • Minister of Immigration
  • Minister of Police
  • Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
  • (04) 817 6836 (Parliament)
  • (03) 477 7330 (Dunedin)
Todd McClay


  • Minister of Revenue
  • Minister for State Owned Enterprises
  • Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Associate Minister for Trade
  • (04) 817 8230 (Parliament)
  • (07) 348 5871 (Rotorua)
  • (07) 323 6487 (Kawerau)
  • (07) 573 7125 (Te Puke)
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga


  • Minister of Corrections
  • Minister for Ethnic Communities
  • Minister for Pacific Peoples
  • Associate Minister of Health
  • (04) 817 6839 (Parliament)
  • (09) 622 0300 (Maungakiekie)
Maggie Barry


  • Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage
  • Minister of Conservation
  • Minister for Senior Citizens
  • (04) 817 6827 (Parliament)
  • (09) 486 0005 (North Shore)
Ministers outside Cabinet
Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities Contact phone numbers[2]
Craig Foss


  • Minister for Small Business
  • Minister of Statistics
  • Minister of Veterans' Affairs
  • Associate Minister of Immigration
  • Associate Minister of Transport
  • (04) 817 6625 (Parliament)
  • (06) 870 3480 (Tukituki)
Jo Goodhew


  • Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Minister for Food Safety
  • Associate Minister for Primary Industries
  • Associate Minister for Social Development
  • (04) 817 6833 (Parliament)
  • (03) 683 1386 (Timaru)
  • (03) 308 7510 (Ashburton)
Nicky Wagner


  • Minister of Customs
  • Minister for Disability Issues
  • Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
  • Associate Minister of Conservation
  • (04) 817 6633 (Parliament)
  • (03) 365 8297 (Christchurch Central)
Louise Upston


  • Minister for Land Information
  • Minister for Women
  • Associate Minister of Local Government
  • Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
  • (04) 817 8231 (Parliament)
  • (07) 827 5572 (Cambridge)
  • (07) 886 5554 (South Waikato)
  • (07) 376 5563 (Taupo)
Paul Goldsmith


  • (04) 817 6945 (Parliament)
  • (09) 524 4930 (Epsom)

Ministers outside Cabinet from other parties with confidence and supply agreements

Incumbent Portfolios and responsibilities Contact phone numbers[3][4][5]
Peter Dunne

(United Future)

  • Minister of Internal Affairs
  • Associate Minister of Conservation
  • Associate Minister of Health
  • (04) 817 9410 (Parliament)
Te Ururoa Flavell

(Māori Party)

  • (04) 817 6953(Parliament)
  • (07) 307 0177(Whakatane)
  • (07) 350 3261(Rotorua)
David Seymour

(ACT Party)

  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education
  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Regulatory Reform
  • (09) 523 0470(Newmarket)
  • (09) 522 7464(Epsom)


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