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Minister of Finance (New Zealand)

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Title: Minister of Finance (New Zealand)  
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Subject: Roger Douglas, Michael Cullen (politician), Ruth Richardson, Jack Watts (politician), Fourth National Government of New Zealand
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Minister of Finance (New Zealand)

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand

The Minister of Finance, originally known as Colonial Treasurer, is a senior figure within the government of New Zealand. The position is often considered to be the most important Cabinet role after that of the Prime Minister.[1]

The current Minister of Finance is Bill English. There are also two Associate Minister roles. They are currently held by Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Responsibilities and powers

The Minister of Finance is responsible for producing an annual Budget outlining the government's proposed expenditure. According to Parliament's Standing Orders, the Minister of Finance may veto any parliamentary bill which would have a significant impact on the government's budget plans. The Minister of Finance also supervises the Treasury, which is the government's primary advisor on matters of economic and financial policy. As such, the Minister of Finance has broad control of the government's spending, making the position quite powerful.

Some analysts, such as Jonathan Boston, claim that the Minister of Finance can sometimes hold more influence than the Prime Minister, if the conditions are right. Gordon Coates, Finance Minister in the early 1930s, was sometimes such a figure. Some political scientists, such as Boston, believe that in the government of David Lange, Minister of Finance Roger Douglas held more power than was proper, and that the Treasury was using its control of government finances to take a supervisory role across the whole administration. It was probably for this reason that Lange's successor, Geoffrey Palmer, established the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which could offer the Prime Minister advice independent of that given by individual ministers.


The office of Minister of Finance has existed since 1841.[2] Apart from the office of Prime Minister itself, the only other cabinet posts to have existed since the first cabinet are those of Attorney-General and Minister of Internal Affairs. Originally, the holder of the post was designated "Colonial Treasurer", but this term was replaced with "Minister of Finance" shortly after New Zealand ceased to be a Colony and became a Dominion. This occurred in 1907, during the cabinet of Joseph Ward.

In the past, several Prime Ministers took on the post of Minister of Finance themselves, though in recent times this practice has declined. Robert Muldoon, the last person to concurrently serve as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, created considerable controversy by doing so. It is more common, however, for a Deputy Prime Minister to serve as Minister of Finance. The present Minister of Finance, Bill English, is also the Deputy Prime Minister.

Traditionally Ministers of Finance rank second or third in seniority lists within Westminster-style Cabinets, although initially Harry Lake was ranked at sixth and his successor Robert Muldoon was ranked at eighth; both because of their short service to date in Parliament, and because Keith Holyoake saw Muldoon as too arrogant and ambitious for his own good.

After the 1996 elections, the role of the Minister of Finance was split between two portfolios – that of Minister of Finance and that of Treasurer. The position of Treasurer was senior to that of the Minister of Finance, and was created as part of the coalition agreement between the National Party and New Zealand First. It was established especially for Winston Peters, leader of New Zealand First, who demanded it as part of the deal. When Peters ended the coalition, the position reverted to the National Party, and after the change of government in 1999, it was reincorporated into the old Minister of Finance portfolio.

List of Finance Ministers

Name PM Served Took Office Left Office Party
1 George Cooper[2] None 3 May 1841 9 May 1842 None
2 Alexander Shepherd[3] None 9 May 1842 7 May 1856 None
3 Dillon Bell Sewell 7 May 1856 20 May 1856 None
4 Charles Brown Fox 20 May 1856 2 June 1856 None
5 Henry Sewell Stafford 2 June 1856 4 November 1856 None
6 William Richmond Stafford 4 November 1856 25 February 1859 None
Henry Sewell, 2nd time Stafford 25 February 1859 26 April 1859 None
William Richmond, 2nd time Stafford 26 April 1859 12 July 1861 None
7 Reader Wood Fox 12 July 1861 6 August 1862 None
Dillon Bell, 2nd time Domett 6 August 1862 21 August 1862 None
Reader Wood, 2nd time Domett, Whitaker 21 August 1862 24 November 1864 None
8 William Fitzherbert Weld 24 November 1864 16 October 1865 None
9 Edward Stafford (himself) 31 October 1865 12 June 1866 None
10 Francis Jollie Stafford 12 June 1866 24 August 1866 None
William Fitzherbert, 2nd time Stafford 24 August 1866 28 June 1869 None
11 Julius Vogel Fox 28 June 1869 10 September 1872 None
12 Thomas Gillies Stafford 10 September 1872 11 October 1872 None
Julius Vogel, 2nd time Waterhouse, Fox, (himself) 11 October 1872 6 July 1875 None
13 Harry Atkinson Pollen 6 July 1875 15 February 1876 None
Julius Vogel, 3rd time (himself) 15 February 1876 1 September 1876 None
Harry Atkinson, 2nd time (himself) 1 September 1876 13 October 1877 None
14 William Larnach Grey 15 October 1877 5 March 1878 None
15 John Ballance Grey 12 July 1878 1 July 1879 None
16 George Grey (himself) 10 July 1879 8 October 1879 None
Harry Atkinson, 3rd time Hall, Whitaker, (himself) 8 October 1879 16 August 1884 None
Julius Vogel, 4th time Stout 16 August 1884 28 August 1884 None
Julius Vogel, 5th time Stout 3 September 1884 8 October 1887 None
Harry Atkinson, 4th time (himself) 8 October 1887 24 January 1891 None
John Ballance, 2nd time (himself) 24 January 1891 27 April 1893 Liberal
17 Joseph Ward Seddon 1 May 1893 16 June 1896 Liberal
18 Richard Seddon (himself) 16 June 1896 10 June 1906 Liberal
19 William Hall-Jones (himself) 21 June 1906 6 August 1906 Liberal
Joseph Ward, 2nd time (himself) 6 August 1906 28 March 1912 Liberal
20 Arthur Myers Mackenzie 28 March 1912 10 July 1912 Liberal
21 James Allen Massey 10 July 1912 12 August 1915 Reform
Joseph Ward, 3rd time Massey 12 August 1915 21 August 1919 Liberal
James Allen Massey 4 September 1919 28 April 1920 Reform
22 William Massey (himself) 12 May 1920 10 May 1925 Reform
23 William Nosworthy Bell, Coates 14 May 1925 24 May 1926 Reform
24 William Downie Stewart Coates 24 May 1926 10 December 1928 Reform
Joseph Ward, 4th time (himself) 10 December 1928 28 May 1930 United (Liberal)
25 George Forbes (himself) 28 May 1930 22 September 1931 United (Liberal)
William Downie Stewart, 2nd time Forbes 22 September 1931 28 January 1933 Reform
26 Gordon Coates Forbes 28 January 1933 6 December 1935 Reform
27 Walter Nash Savage, Fraser 6 December 1935 13 December 1949 Labour
28 Sidney Holland (himself) 13 December 1949 Nov 1954 National
29 Jack Watts Holland, Holyoake Nov 1954 12 December 1957 National
30 Arnold Nordmeyer Nash 12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Labour
31 Harry Lake Holyoake 12 December 1960 Mar 1967 National
32 Robert Muldoon Holyoake, Marshall Mar 1967 8 December 1972 National
33 Bill Rowling Kirk 8 December 1972 6 September 1974 Labour
34 Bob Tizard Rowling 6 September 1974 12 December 1975 Labour
Robert Muldoon, 2nd time (himself) 12 December 1975 26 July 1984 National
35 Roger Douglas Lange 26 July 1984 14 December 1988 Labour
36 David Caygill Lange, Palmer, Moore 14 December 1988 2 November 1990 Labour
37 Ruth Richardson Bolger 2 November 1990 Nov 1993 National
38 Bill Birch Bolger Nov 1993 16 December 1996 National
Bill Birch, continued Treasurer: Peters Bolger, Shipley 16 December 1996 14 August 1998 National
Bill Birch, continued Treasurer: (himself) Shipley 14 August 1998 Jan 1999 National
39 Bill English Treasurer: Birch Shipley Jan 1999 Jun 1999 National
Bill Birch, 2nd time Treasurer: English Shipley Jun 1999 5 December 1999 National
40 Michael Cullen Clark 5 December 1999 19 November 2008 Labour
Bill English, 2nd time Key 19 November 2008 Incumbent National


  1. ^ Clifton, Jane (19 September 2013). "Influentials: Politics".  
  2. ^ a b Cyclopedia Company Limited (1897). "Mr. George Cooper". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Wellington Provincial District. Wellington. Retrieved 12 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1897). "Mr. Alexander Shepherd". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Wellington Provincial District. Wellington. Retrieved 12 June 2010. 

External links

  • New Zealand Treasury
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