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Our House: A house of representatives should, ideally, be ...

International perspectives on democracy: Commonwealth heads of government leaders said in their ...

Electing Parliament: The MPs and the political parties in New Zealand's Parliament are elected ...

Members of Parliament: In the 27 July 2002 general election, Labour gained 52, National 27, New Zealand ...

Forming the government: The Labour and Progressive Coalition Parties in Parliament have agreeed ...

Composition of Parliament: New Zealand's Parliament is a place where more and more sections ...

The New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust: The New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust was formed in 1991 to bridge ...

The role of the speaker: The Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives is the highest officer ...

Who drafts the laws? To make sure laws ar written correctly, Parliament has ...

The Office of the Clerk: The position of Clerk of the House of Representatives is one of the oldest ...

Parliamentary Service: The Parliamentary Service is one of two parliamentary agencies providing ...

What MPs do: Conventions, not job descriptions, guide what ..

MP's pay: Members of Parliament currently receive a ....

Living two lives: John Key, aged 41, National MP for Helensville, was an investment ...

From Youth MP to youngest MP: Darren Hughes, at 24 New Zealand's youngest ...

Government and Opposition: There is a tradition of thinking that asserts that ideas change with ...

How laws are made: Parliament is New Zealand's supreme law-making body. It's members study ...

How a bill becomes an Act

Select committees: After a bill is introduced to Parliament and has been given its ...

Select commitee members

Petitioning Parliament: Every New Zealand citizen or resident has the right to petition Parliament ...

Visiting Parliament: People come for many reasons to tour New Zealand's Parliament ...

150 years: The New Zealand Parliament celebrates its 150th ...



What MPs do

Becoming experts
Community work
Parliament's check on the executive
Personal lives
More duties

An example of Parliamentary participation

MP's pay

Conventions, not job descriptions, guide what members of Parliament are expected to do.

Becoming experts

MPs' duties in the House of Representatives include scrutinising legislation, organising the business of the House, and taking part in debates.

Back-bench MPs (those who are not Ministers) serve on several select committees. They seek to become experts in the areas of public policy the committees cover. Committee members:

  • hear submissions
  • question Ministers and officials
  • debate principle and details of legislation
    conduct enquiries
  • devise large or small changes to the legislation.

As members of political parties, MPs try to get the media and the public to take note.

MPs are in constant demand to give speeches, write articles for media, attend functions, and meet visitors. They are regularly lobbied by interest groups and individuals who want to promote ideas. They must respond to many letters and emails each year, with sense, sensitivity, and often with practical action.

Community work

Electorate MPs represent their particular electorates (some of which are extremely large). They must keep up with local issues, and argue on behalf of local causes within Parliament, within their party caucuses, and elsewhere.

Members often have weekly clinics in their electorates where they make themselves available to constituents for any queries they have. These may relate to issues about legislation or government policy or difficulties encountered with state agencies. MPs can help people to have their voices heard in Parliament and government.

Before they become Members, some aspiring political leaders assist current Parliamentarians – laying the groundwork, learning the ropes, promoting their beliefs. After becoming MPs – and moving on to other roles in government or opposition, parliament-arians still need to represent constituents as well as discharging duties, perhaps as party whips, or otherwise outside Cabinet, as Ministers with one or more portfolios, as Prime Minister, or in the Speaker’s chair.

Constituency MPs usually have at least one office in their electorate and two full time staff members to help with their local duties.

Many list MPs also work to represent local communities, especially in areas where their party has no electorate MP. For example, National had no electorate MPs in the Hawkes Bay region, so in a recent Parliament Napier list MP Anne Tolley acted as an extra local MP for National.

Other list MPs work to represent special communities that do not have geographical boundaries, such as Māori, Pacific Islanders, trade unions, the business community, and women. Pansy Wong, for example, lives in Christchurch, but works to represent members of the New Zealand Chinese community, who are spread throughout the country.

Both constituency and list MPs have a budget to spend on things such as operating their out-of-Parliament offices, printing and photocopying for parliamentary purposes, and purchasing equipment. For a constituency MP, the budget is $55,000, and for a list member, $34,200. This budget is administered by Parliamentary Service.

Parliament’s check on the executive

Former Act Party leader Richard Prebble said MPs are a check on the executive. The MP’s role is to be a mini ombudsperson. “We are not social workers. We inform constituents on the right place to take their complaints. If constituents are not treated properly, MPs anticipate electors would bring the complaint back to us for follow up,” said the now retired MP.

Personal lives

With very few exceptions, MPs work long hours and try hard to serve the needs of the people they represent. Few work less than 60 hours a week, and many regularly work over 80. Amidst all this, MPs also try to maintain some kind of personal life. Many have spouses and young families who find that they see little of mum or dad once she or he becomes a parliamentarian.

Peter Dunne, leader of the United Future New Zealand Party, gets to his Bowen House office at about 8am. Although he may leave by 6pm, he often finishes his day at midnight. He is lucky to get one day off at weekends. His persistence in politics has been rewarded – from being a one-man parliamentary political party he now has influence over the minority Labour government with his team of eight MPs, all new apart from him.

More duties

Those MPs who become Ministers or leaders within their parties have all these duties and more. They may also have government departments and ministries to run – some of them with thousands of staff, spending millions of dollars a week.

Ministers, working within their portfolios, or collectively, make and influence the decisions the state can make that affect people's lives. In the checks and balances of New Zealand’s political system they face the prospect of rejection or further acceptance by the electorate.

An example of Parliamentary participation

Winnie Laban, the first Samoan woman MP in New Zealand’s Parliament, said in her maiden speech that she wanted to fight for Pacific people at the bottom of the social and economic heap – and since then has worked to foster the participation of Pacific peoples in the political process.

Her parliamentary support was willingly given to the Pacific Peoples’ Blindness Prevention initiative, advocated by the late Deborah Amos, a Pacific mental health nurse. Non-governmental organisation Retina New Zealand promoted this cause. Labour Party member Deb Amos pushed it on the condition it was well planned, well led and well resourced – which led to Winnie Laban’s support and the picking up of the cause by Minister for Disability Issues, Ruth Dyson.

In turn this led to the Minister fostering support within central government and District Health Boards for preventing diabetes to prevent blindness, using Pacific techniques that could help Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders. See DecisionMaker How participation works, 2nd quarter 2003, for more.

MPs' pay

Members of Parliament currently receive a basic salary of $110,000. They also get a range of allowances to cover expenses such as accommodation in Wellington. Parliamentary Service administers payment of all Member's salaries, allowances and superannuation provisions, as fixed by the Remuneration Authority, which is an independent body.

For more information, see the current statutory regulation Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination.

Find out more!

Parliamentary Service
Parliament Buildings, Wellington
Tel: (04) 471-9999, Fax: (04) 472-2551
Or contact us by email.




Logo of the House of Representatives.

Photo shows Dr Muriel Newman talking to students.

Dr Muriel Newman, former ACT MP, discusses political choices with students – but this is not the only way Dr Newman kept in touch. She also writes a weekly political column which she emailed to about 14,000 people. Dr Newman is conscious that there is a widening array of information technologies that can change the way politics are conducted.


Doug Woolerton kneels on a bowling green watched by an elderly man.

Doug Woolerton, NZ First, (kneeling) checks the turf at a retirement home.