New Zealand belongs to the Commonwealth with
the British monarch as head of state. Parliament is
elected every three years and has certain seats reserved
for Maori. The bourgeois Nationalist Party and the
Social Democratic Labor have been in power since the
1930s, but a new election system from 1996 has
strengthened the small parties.
New Zealand, like Britain, lacks a written
constitution. Instead, a mixture of common law,
customary law and conventions is applied.
Total population and chart of New Zealand for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
New Zealand is an independent state within the
Commonwealth (United Kingdom and former British
colonies). The British monarch is the head of state and
is represented by a general governor who is appointed on
a proposal by the government for five years at a time.
The Governor-General has a mainly ceremonial role. The
tasks include giving the victorious party an election to
form a government and to convene Parliament. The
Governor-General, who is now always New Zealander, is
Parliamentary elections are held at least every three
years. The voting age is 18 years. The House consists of
a Chamber, the House of Representatives, with usually
120 members. Extra seats can be added, as a sort of
Since 1996, New Zealand has a voting system that is a
combination of majority voting and proportional voting.
Each voter votes for both a candidate and a party, and
can thus support two different parties in the same
election. It has favored small parties at the expense of
the big ones.
To receive the 50 proportionally distributed
mandates, a party must have at least five percent of the
vote. Seven mandates are reserved for Maoris. Since
1976, Maoris can vote or stand as candidates in election
districts other than their own.
The bourgeois Nationalist Party (New Zealand
National Party) and the Social Democratic Labor
Party (New Zealand Labor Party) have been in power
ever since the 1930s, thus dominating the political
scene. However, the new electoral system introduced in
1996 strengthened the influence of the smaller parties.
The Nationalist Party emphasizes free competition and
wants the state's influence over the economy to be as
small as possible. The party pushed through huge savings
in the welfare system during its tenure in power
1990–1999. After Labor's record-long holding of power
for three terms, the Nationalist Party returned to power
in the 2008 election and also won 2011 and 2014.
Labor is the oldest party in the country and has its
roots in the 19th century trade union movement. During
Labor's power holdings from 1984 to 1990, extensive
liberalization of the economy was made, which caused
many of Labor's traditional voters to abandon the party.
Helen Clark's entry as party leader in 1993 partly meant
a return to a more traditional social democratic policy.
Although the Nationalist Party received the most votes
in the 2017 election, Labor was able to form government
with support from the Green Party and New Zealand first.
Green Party (Green Party of Aotearoa New
Zealand) is heir to the world's first national Green
party, Safe Party, which was formed in 1972.
right-wing populist New Zealand First (New
Zealand First, NZF) led by the charismatic Winston
Peters, who in the 1990s left the Nationalist Party. The
party is pleading for reduced immigration from Asia, a
restriction on foreign investment, better care and
reduced taxes. The NZF has traveled in and out of
Parliament throughout its existence and has been a part
of the government from time to time. After the 2017
election, the party succeeded again in the government.
Among the small parties are the Maori Party (Te
Pāti Māori), which was formed in 2004 (see Modern
History). Mana was formed in 2011 by Hone
Harawira who was excluded from the Maori party because
of his criticism of the party leadership. The ACT
New Zealand right party (ACT New Zealand) emerged
in the 1990s from a taxpayer association. The party
advocates, among other things, reduced taxes. United
Future New Zealand (United Future New Zealand) was
formed in 2002 through a merger of two small bourgeois
The judiciary is based on British traditions. Appeals
from the district courts, serious crimes and important
civil cases are handled by the High Court and then the
Court of Appeal. The highest court is the Supreme Court,
which was established in 2004 and then replaced the
Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
Violence crime is relatively high, especially in
homes where violence against women and children is
common. Aga at school was banned in 1989 but at home
only in 2007. The
UN has criticized New Zealand for the low age of
criminality. Children as young as ten can be convicted
of murder or murder, and for other crimes can be
punished from the age of 14. The death penalty was
abolished in 1989.
New Zealand is one of the world's least corrupt
countries. 2013 was the seventh consecutive year that
the country was divided or own first place on the
anti-corruption agency Transparency International's
index. But in 2014, the country dropped to second place
and 2015 to fourth. In 2016, however, New Zealand
returned to first place together with Denmark.
A controversial domestic policy issue is the Maori
demands for compensation for land and fishing rights
they lost, despite the promises made in connection with
the signing of the Waitangi Treaty of 1840 (see Ancient
History). When the treaty was written, the Maoris owned
27 million hectares of land, but they lost most of their
land to the colonizers.
In 1988, the Maoris owned only 1.5 million hectares
but made demands on three-quarters of the country's
land. The Waitangi Tribunal, which was established in
1975, was commissioned from the mid-1980s to review and
issue opinions on all reported disputes arising after
1840 and otherwise monitor Moorish affairs. However, the
tribunal's decisions are not binding on the government.
There is also a court for disputes relating to Maori
land ownership, the Maori Land Court.
An early, symbolically important settlement in the
tribunal led to the Maori language becoming official in
1987 alongside the English. In 1992, the Maoris were
guaranteed rights to commercial fishing, valued at large
sums. In 1995 came the first settlement involving
confiscated land. The Tainui people in Waikato were
replaced with cash and land seized 130 years earlier,
for a total value of 170 million New Zealand dollars
(just over SEK 850 million). Queen Elizabeth personally
apologized for the confiscation. Similar agreements have
subsequently been concluded with several other people.
In 2009, for the first time, a settlement was reached
in an intellectual property case. A Moorish tribe
received compensation and was guaranteed the right to
dance Ka Mate chin, which is traditionally performed by
the country's rugby team before matches. There was a
concern among the Maoris for the growing
commercialization that arose around the dance.
The payments in fair money exceeded one billion New
Zealand dollars in 2009. The agreements have sparked
debate about whether this is the most equitable way to
return property to the Maori population and how the
compensation should be designed to benefit the Maori in
the cities as well. The agreements have also been
criticized for disregarding the social and cultural
consequences of the colonization and Maori demands for
increased self-determination. According to a government
decision, all targets must be completed by 2020.
In 2011, a law was introduced that allowed Maori and
other indigenous people to assert their right to coastal
areas and the seabed. Applications with such
requirements could be submitted to the government or
submitted to court in 2017. New Zealanders have the
right to have access to the beach areas by law unless it
is about land designated as sacred to the indigenous
population. But, for example, Maoris can claim coastal
areas and mineral resources as well as pay for companies
that conduct commercial activities there.