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Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

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.

Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
Winston Peters, 2018.jpg
Winston Peters

since 26 October 2017
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
StyleThe Honourable
Member of
Reports toPrime Minister of New Zealand
AppointerGovernor-General of New Zealand
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
Formation13 November 1954
First holderSir Keith Holyoake
Salary$334,734 (NZD)[1]

Appointment and dutiesEdit

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 ZealandEdit


  Labour   National   NZ First   Alliance

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

Living former Deputy Prime MinistersEdit

As of November 2019, 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 linksEdit