Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

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The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand (Māori: Te Pirimia Tuarua o Aotearoa) is the second-most senior minister in the Government of New Zealand, although this seniority does not necessarily translate into power. The office was created as a ministerial portfolio in 1954. The officeholder usually deputises for the prime minister at official functions. The current Deputy Prime Minister is Winston Peters, the Leader of New Zealand First.

Appointment and duties

Generally, the position is held by the deputy leader of the largest party, but now that the MMP electoral system makes coalitions more likely, the role may instead go to the leader of a junior party. This occurred with Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First,[2] and Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance.[3]

The post of deputy prime minister was formally established in 1954.[N 1] Eighteen individuals have held the position (two of them doing so twice). Of those people, only Holyoake, Marshall, Watt, Muldoon, Palmer, Clark and English have eventually served as Prime Minister.[N 2]

The duties of the deputy prime minister are to act on behalf of the prime minister in his or her absence overseas or on leave. The deputy prime minister has always been a member of the Cabinet, and has always held at least one substantive portfolio. If the prime minister were to die, become incapacitated or resign, the Governor-General would normally appoint the Deputy Prime Minister as Prime Minister on an interim basis until the governing party elects a new leader, but is not obligated to do so.

Little scholarly attention has focused on deputy prime ministers in New Zealand or elsewhere. In 2009, an article by Steven Barnes appeared in Political Science where nine 'qualities' of deputy prime ministership were identified: temperament; relationships with their Cabinet and caucus; relationships with their party; popularity with the public; media skills; achievements as Deputy Prime Minister; relationship with the Prime Minister; leadership ambition; and method of succession.[4] Barnes conducted a survey of journalists, academics, and former members of parliament to rank New Zealand's deputy prime ministers since 1960. Across the nine deputy prime minister 'qualities', Don McKinnon achieved the number one ranking, followed by Brian Talboys, Michael Cullen, and John Marshall. In a second 'overall' ranking, Cullen was ranked number one, followed by Talboys, McKinnon, and Marshall. Jim Anderton, Winston Peters, and Bob Tizard were ranked lowest in both sections of the survey.[4]

List of Deputy Prime Ministers of New Zealand


  Labour   National   NZ First   Alliance

No. Name Portrait Term of office Prime Minister
1 Keith Holyoake Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg 13 November 1954 20 September 1957 Holland
2 Jack Marshall Jack Marshall, 1957.jpg 20 September 1957 12 December 1957 Holyoake
3 Jerry Skinner Jerry Skinner.jpg 12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Nash
(2) Jack Marshall Jack Marshall, 1957.jpg 12 December 1960 9 February 1972 Holyoake
4 Robert Muldoon Muldoon 26 June 1969.jpg 9 February 1972 8 December 1972 Marshall
5 Hugh Watt Hugh Watt.jpg 8 December 1972 1 September 1974 Kirk
6 Bob Tizard Bob Tizard, 1963.jpg 10 September 1974 12 December 1975 Rowling
7 Brian Talboys Brian Talboys.jpg 12 December 1975 4 March 1981 Muldoon
8 Duncan MacIntyre Duncan MacIntyre Greg Tate (crop).jpg 4 March 1981 15 March 1984
9 Jim McLay Jim McLay (cropped).jpg 15 March 1984 26 July 1984
10 Geoffrey Palmer Geoffrey Palmer.jpg 26 July 1984 8 August 1989 Lange
11 Helen Clark Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg 8 August 1989 2 November 1990 Palmer
12 Don McKinnon Don McKinnon (cropped).jpg 2 November 1990 16 December 1996 Bolger
13 Winston Peters Winston Peters, 2019.jpg 16 December 1996 14 August 1998
14 Wyatt Creech Wyatt Creech.jpg 14 August 1998 10 December 1999
15 Jim Anderton Jim Anderton, 2010.jpg 10 December 1999 15 August 2002 Clark
16 Michael Cullen Michael Cullen, 2008.jpg 15 August 2002 19 November 2008
17 Bill English Prime Minister Bill English.jpg 19 November 2008 12 December 2016 Key
18 Paula Bennett Paula Bennett in 2018.png 12 December 2016 26 October 2017 English
(13) Winston Peters Winston Peters, 2019.jpg 26 October 2017 Incumbent Ardern

Living former Deputy Prime Ministers

As of January 2020, there are eight living former New Zealand Deputy Prime Ministers, as seen below. The most recent Deputy Prime Minister to die was Jim Anderton (served 1999–2002), on 7 January 2018, aged 79.[5]


  1. ^ A few ministers were referred to as "deputy prime minister" before 1954, such as Walter Nash. However, this was a descriptive title and not a formal ministerial portfolio.
  2. ^ Some lists consider Hugh Watt as a New Zealand Prime Minister. Watt served as acting Prime Minister for seven days from 31 August to 6 September 1972 following the death of Norman Kirk. He is not normally counted in the official numbering of New Zealand Prime Ministers.


  1. ^ "Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination 2017" (PDF). New Zealand Parliament. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Rt Hon Winston Peters". New Zealand First. Archived from the original on 22 June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  3. ^ Vernon Small (7 December 2012). "Labour leader looks to outsiders for deputy". Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b Barnes, Steven (2009). "What About Me? Deputy Prime Ministership in New Zealand". Political Science. 61 (1): 33–49. doi:10.1177/00323187090610010401.
  5. ^ "Jim Anderton dies aged 79". 6 January 2018. Retrieved 6 January 2018.

External links