Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand

The deputy prime minister of New Zealand (Māori: Te Pirimia Tuarua o Aotearoa) is the second most senior member of the Cabinet of New Zealand. The officeholder usually deputises for the prime minister at official functions. The current deputy prime minister is Grant Robertson.

Deputy Prime Minister of
New Zealand
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
Flag of New Zealand.svg
Hon Grant Robertson.jpg
Grant Robertson

since 6 November 2020
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
StyleMr Deputy Prime Minister
The Honourable
His Excellency
Member of
Reports toPrime Minister of New Zealand
AppointerGovernor-General of New Zealand
Term lengthNo term limit
Formation13 December 1949; 72 years ago (1949-12-13)
First holderKeith Holyoake
SalaryNZ$334,734 annually[1]

The role existed on an informal basis for as long as the office of prime minister/premier has existed, but the office of "deputy prime minister" was formally established as a ministerial portfolio in 1949.[2] This means that Keith Holyoake is considered as the first deputy prime minister. It was formally designated as a full cabinet level position in 1954.[3]

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,[4] and Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance.[5] The current deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson of the Labour Party, has the role even though his party's deputy leader is Kelvin Davis. After the 2020 election, Davis turned down the position,[6] and Robertson was appointed instead.[7]

The post of deputy prime minister was formally established in 1949.[N 1] Eighteen individuals have held the position (two of them doing so twice) and of those people: Holyoake, Marshall, Watt, Muldoon, Palmer, Clark and English have eventually served as prime minister.[N 2] The deputy prime minister has always been a member of the Cabinet, and has always held at least one substantive portfolio.

The Deputy Prime Minister "...can, if necessary" exercise the statutory and constitutional functions and powers of the prime ministership if the Prime Minister is unavailable or unable.[8] They can also do the same as Acting Prime Minister, in consultation with the Prime Minister if it is appropriate and practicable.[9] The Deputy Prime Minister can also temporarily act as Prime Minister until the leadership of the government is determined in some cases, like the death or incapacity of the Prime Minister.[10]

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.[11] 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.[11]

List of deputy prime ministers of New ZealandEdit


  Labour   National   NZ First   Alliance

No. Name Portrait Concurrent portfolio(s) Term of office Prime Minister
1 Keith Holyoake
  Minister of Agriculture 13 December 1949 20 September 1957 Holland
2 Jack Marshall
Minister of Justice
20 September 1957 12 December 1957 Holyoake
3 Jerry Skinner
  Minister of Agriculture
Minister of Lands
12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Nash
(2) Jack Marshall
  Minister of Overseas Trade
Minister of Industries and Commerce
Minister of Labour
Minister of Immigration
12 December 1960 9 February 1972 Holyoake
4 Robert Muldoon
  Minister of Finance 9 February 1972 8 December 1972 Marshall
5 Hugh Watt
  Minister of Labour
Minister of Works
8 December 1972 1 September 1974 Kirk
6 Bob Tizard
  Minister of Finance 10 September 1974 12 December 1975 Rowling
7 Brian Talboys
  Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Overseas Trade
12 December 1975 4 March 1981 Muldoon
8 Duncan MacIntyre
  Minister of Agriculture 4 March 1981 15 March 1984
9 Jim McLay
(born 1945)
Minister of Justice
15 March 1984 26 July 1984
10 Geoffrey Palmer
(born 1942)
Minister of Justice
26 July 1984 8 August 1989 Lange
11 Helen Clark
(born 1950)
  Minister of Labour
Minister of Health
8 August 1989 2 November 1990 Palmer
12 Don McKinnon
(born 1939)
  Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Overseas Trade
2 November 1990 16 December 1996 Bolger
13 Winston Peters
(born 1945)
  Treasurer 16 December 1996 14 August 1998
14 Wyatt Creech
(born 1946)
  Minister of Education
Minister of Health
14 August 1998 10 December 1999
15 Jim Anderton
  Minister of Economic Development
Minister of Customs
10 December 1999 15 August 2002 Clark
16 Michael Cullen
  Minister of Finance
Leader of the House
15 August 2002 19 November 2008
17 Bill English
(born 1961)
  Minister of Finance
Minister for Infrastructure
19 November 2008 12 December 2016 Key
18 Paula Bennett
(born 1969)
  Minister of State Services
Minister of Police
Minister of Tourism
12 December 2016 26 October 2017 English
(13) Winston Peters
(born 1945)
  Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister for State Owned Enterprises
26 October 2017 6 November 2020 Ardern
19 Grant Robertson
(born 1971)
  Minister of Finance
Minister for Infrastructure
6 November 2020 Incumbent

Living former deputy prime ministersEdit

As of May 2022, there are eight living former New Zealand deputy prime ministers, as seen below. The most recent deputy prime minister to die was Michael Cullen (served 2002-2008), on 19 August 2021, aged 76.


  1. ^ A few ministers were referred to as "deputy prime minister" before 1949, such as Peter Fraser and 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. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 118.
  3. ^ Wood, G. A. "Holyoake, Keith Jacka". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Rt Hon Winston Peters". New Zealand First. Archived from the original on 22 June 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  5. ^ Vernon Small (7 December 2012). "Labour leader looks to outsiders for deputy". Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  6. ^ Whyte, Anna (2 November 2020). "Kelvin Davis says he won't seek Deputy Prime Minister role". TVNZ. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Robertson confirmed as Deputy PM". Otago Daily Times. 2 November 2020. Retrieved 6 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Cabinet Manual 2017" (PDF). New Zealand Government. 2017. 2.13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Cabinet Manual 2017" (PDF). New Zealand Government. 2017. 2.14. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  10. ^ "Cabinet Manual 2017" (PDF). New Zealand Government. 2017. 6.57. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 January 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b Barnes, Steven (2009). "What About Me? Deputy Prime Ministership in New Zealand". Political Science. 61 (1): 33–49. doi:10.1177/00323187090610010401.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V R Ward, Government Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Wood, G. A. (1996) [1987]. Ministers and Members in the New Zealand Parliament (2 ed.). Dunedin: University of Otago Press. ISBN 1 877133 00 0.

External linksEdit