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Minister of Foreign Affairs (New Zealand)


Minister of Foreign Affairs (New Zealand)

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Murray McCully
Style The Honourable
Appointer Governor-General of New Zealand
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
Inaugural holder James Allen
Formation 1919
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
New Zealand

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is a major ministerial portfolio in the government of New Zealand.

The current Minister of Foreign Affairs is Murray McCully, who was National Party Spokesperson of Foreign Affairs and Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs. There are also Associate Minister roles. Currently, these roles are held by Tim Groser.


  • Responsibilities and powers 1
  • History 2
  • List of Ministers of Foreign Affairs 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Responsibilities and powers

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is responsible for overseeing New Zealand's relations with foreign countries. The Minister is in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including New Zealand's diplomatic staff. The office is often considered to be one of the more distinguished ministerial posts, and has at times been counted as the most senior role below that of the Prime Minister. In terms of actual political power, however, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not as prominent as in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the Minister of Finance being considerably more influential.

Historically, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been a member of Cabinet, with the exception of the Rt Hon. Winston Peters. This situation came about as the result of coalition negotiations in which it was agreed that the New Zealand First Party would take a senior ministerial portfolio but would not join Cabinet.


The first New Zealand foreign minister was James Allen, appointed to the post of "Minister of External Affairs" by William Massey in 1919. Before this time, there was no dedicated ministerial portfolio for foreign relations. A Department of External Affairs was created in 1919 but its functions were limited to administering New Zealand's Island Territories in the Pacific; namely the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the League of Nations Mandate of Samoa.[1] In 1943, a new Department of External Affairs was created to conduct the country's external relations. The older department was then renamed the Department of Island Territories and a separate portfolio called the Minister of Island Territories was subsequently created.[2]

From 1943, the Minister of External Affairs became the main ministerial portfolio for conducting New Zealand's external relations.[3] Like its similarly named Australian and Canadian counterparts, the portfolio was called "External Affairs" rather than "Foreign Affairs" in deference of the British Government’s responsibility for conducting foreign policy on behalf of the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations.[4] The title was changed to "Minister of Foreign Affairs" in 1970 after the Department was renamed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The title became "Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade" following the abandonment of the short-lived "Minister of External Relations and Trade" title, created in September 1988 when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs absorbed the Trade functions of the old Department of Trade and Industry. In 2005 responsibility for trade was split into a separate portfolio, with the title reverting to "Minister of Foreign Affairs".

Historically it has been common for Prime Ministers to take on the role of Foreign Minister themselves, particularly if they have an interest in the field. Several New Zealand Prime Ministers including Peter Fraser, Walter Nash, Keith Holyoake, and David Lange held the External Affairs portfolio.[3] The most recent Prime Minister to do this is Helen Clark in 2008 as Acting Minister, and prior to her was Mike Moore, in 1990. Thirteen Prime Ministers have served as Foreign Minister for all or part of their terms.

New Zealand has had 27 foreign ministers (regardless of exact title). The longest-serving was Keith Holyoake, who held the post for the duration of his 11-year premiership. The second longest-serving, and the longest-serving who was not also Prime Minister, was Don McKinnon, who became Commonwealth Secretary-General.

List of Ministers of Foreign Affairs

Name PM Served Took Office Left Office Party
1 James Allen Massey 24 November 1919 28 April 1920 Reform
2 Ernest Lee Massey 17 May 1920 13 January 1923 Reform
3 Francis Bell Massey, (himself), Coates 18 June 1923 24 May 1926 Reform
4 William Nosworthy Coates 24 May 1926 24 August 1928 Reform
5 Gordon Coates (himself) 25 August 1928 10 December 1928 Reform
6 Joseph Ward (himself) 10 December 1928 28 May 1930 United (Liberal)
7 George Forbes (himself) 28 May 1930 6 December 1935 United (Liberal)
8 Michael Joseph Savage (himself) 6 December 1935 27 March 1940 Labour
9 Frank Langstone Fraser 1 April 1940 21 December 1942 Labour
10 Peter Fraser (himself) 7 July 1943 13 December 1949 Labour
11 Frederick Doidge Holland 13 December 1949 31 August 1951 National
12 Clifton Webb Holland 19 September 1951 26 November 1954 National
13 Tom Macdonald Holland, Holyoake 26 November 1954 12 December 1957 National
14 Walter Nash (himself) 12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Labour
15 Keith Holyoake (himself), Jack Marshall 12 December 1960 8 December 1972 National
16 Norman Kirk (himself) 8 December 1972 31 August 1974 Labour
17 Bill Rowling (himself) 6 September 1974 12 December 1975 Labour
18 Brian Talboys Muldoon 12 December 1975 11 December 1981 National
19 Warren Cooper Muldoon 11 December 1981 26 July 1984 National
20 David Lange (himself) 26 July 1984 24 August 1987 Labour
21 Russell Marshall Lange, Palmer 24 August 1987 9 February 1990 Labour
22 Mike Moore Palmer, (himself) 9 February 1990 2 November 1990 Labour
23 Don McKinnon Bolger, Shipley 2 November 1990 10 December 1999 National
24 Phil Goff Clark 10 December 1999 19 October 2005 Labour
25 Winston Peters Clark 19 October 2005 29 August 2008 New Zealand First
Helen Clark (Acting) herself 29 August 2008 19 November 2008 Labour
26 Murray McCully Key 19 November 2008 Incumbent National


  1. ^ "External Affairs Bill", in New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 185 (3 October–5 November 1919), p.337.
  2. ^ Malcolm Templeton, An Eye, an Ear, and a Voice: 50 years in New Zealand's External Relations, 1943-1993, p.1.
  3. ^ a b Malcolm Templeton, ed., An Eye, An Ear, And a Voice, pp.1-2.
  4. ^ Alan Watt, "The Department of Foreign Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World,Department of External Affairs (1921–70) ed. Zara Steiner (London: Times Books Limited, 1982), p.35; James Eary, "The Department of External Affairs," in The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World, p.96.

External links

  • New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
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