The First and Second Atkinson Ministries were responsible governments in a period sometimes known as the Continuous Ministry. Harry Atkinson formed a government on 1 September 1876, but as it included 9 salaried ministers rather than the legally mandated 8, the Ministry was forced to resign on 13 September and take office again without John Hall. This second Atkinson ministry survived a full year.
Atkinson took over from the government of Julius Vogel, who recommended him to the Governor on condition that Atkinson appoint him Agent-General in London. Vogel had already sounded out John Davies Ormond, Edward Stafford and William Fitzherbert. Within a fortnight of the installation of the new ministry (which kept on several figures from the previous administrations), it was forced to resign as the Budget only provided for seven Ministers plus a Premier, and Atkinson had appointed eight. The First Atkinson Ministry handed in their resignations on 13 September 1876 and were immediately reappointed with the exception of John Hall, thus becoming officially the Second Atkinson Ministry.
Vogel's Great Public Works policy had run into criticism of the lack of parliamentary oversight of public works contracts and a public debt which had grown from £8 million to £17 million between 1870 and 1875, while export prices were dropping. The Ministry therefore reversed the previous policy and cut back on public works spending except for main trunk lines, which had the impact of losing the votes of land speculators and backblocks Members. To deal with the number of unemployed immigrants unable to afford the inflated price of land, the Government introduced a Waste Lands Act including the ability to purchase land on deferred payment. This was one of the few new policies brought in by a Government whose mission was "political rest combined with financial circumspection".
One of the alienated Members of the House of Representatives was William Larnach, who in October 1877 submitted a motion of no confidence based on the Ministry's paralysis. It has been argued that he was in fact motivated by a desire for a Government which would promote his speculative Waimea Plains Land Company. Larnach's motion succeeded by 42 votes to 38 but Larnach was unable to form a new Ministry, instead recommending that ex-Governor Sir George Grey be called.
The following members served in the Atkinson Ministry:
|Harry Atkinson||Premier||1 September 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Colonial Treasurer||1 September 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Secretary of Crown Lands||13 September 1876 - 4 January 1877|
|Minister for Immigration||13 September 1876 - 4 January 1877|
|Daniel Pollen, MLC||Colonial Secretary||4 July 1873 - 13 October 1877|
|Native Minister||18 December 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Frederick Whitaker||Attorney-General||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|4 November 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Postmaster-General||13 September 1876 - 7 December 1876|
|Commissioner of Telegraphs||13 September 1876 - 7 December 1876|
|Sir Donald McLean||Native Minister||11 October 1872 - 7 December 1876|
|John Hall, MLC||Member of Executive Council||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|Edward Richardson||Minister for Public Works||29 October 1872 - 4 January 1877|
|Charles Bowen||Minister of Justice||16 December 1874 - 13 October 1877|
|Commissioner of Stamp Duties||16 December 1874 - 13 October 1877|
|George McLean||Commissioner of Customs||4 July 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Postmaster-General||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|12 January 1877 - 13 October 1877|
|Commissioner of Telegraphs||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|12 January 1877 - 13 October 1877|
|John Davies Ormond||Secretary of Crown Lands||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|Minister for Immigration||1 September 1876 - 13 September 1876|
|Postmaster-General||7 December 1876 - 12 January 1877|
|Commissioner of Telegraphs||7 December 1876 - 12 January 1877|
|Minister for Public Works||8 January 1877 - 13 October 1877|
|Hori Tawhiti||Member of Executive Council||28 November 1876 - 13 October 1877|
|Donald Reid||Secretary of Crown Lands||4 January 1877 - 13 October 1877|
|Minister for Immigration||4 January 1877 - 13 October 1877|
- ^ a b Garner, Jean (1995). By His Own Merits: Sir John Hall: Pioneer, Pastoralist and Premier. Dryden Press. p. 158.
- ^ Wilson, J. O. (James Oakley) (1985). New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: Government Printer. pp. 66–7.
- ^ Bassett, Judith (1969). Sir Harry Atkinson. Reed. p. 44.
- ^ a b Bassett, Judith (1969). Sir Harry Atkinson. Reed. p. 46.
- ^ Bassett, Judith (1969). Sir Harry Atkinson. Reed. p. 49.
- ^ Bassett, Judith (1969). Sir Harry Atkinson. Reed. p. 53.
- ^ Bassett, Judith (1969). Sir Harry Atkinson. Reed. p. 55.
- ^ Stewart, William Downie (1940). William Rolleston: A New Zealand Statesman. Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. p. 126.
- ^ Wilson, J. O. (1985). Parliamentary Record of New Zealand (4th ed.). Wellington: Government Printer. pp. 66–7.