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

since 6 November 2020
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Member of
  • Cabinet of New Zealand
  • Executive Council
Reports to Prime Minister of New Zealand
Appointer Governor-General of New Zealand
Term length No fixed term
Formation 13 December 1949; 73 years ago (1949-12-13)
First holder Keith Holyoake
Salary NZ$334,734 annually

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.

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. 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.

Appointment and duties

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, and Jim Anderton, leader of the Alliance. 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, and Robertson was appointed instead.

The post of deputy prime minister was formally established in 1949. 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. 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. They can also do the same as Acting Prime Minister, in consultation with the Prime Minister if it is appropriate and practicable. 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.

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. 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.

List of deputy prime ministers of New Zealand


  Labour   National   NZ First   Alliance

No. Name Portrait Concurrent portfolio(s) Term of office Prime Minister
1 Keith Holyoake
Keith Holyoake (crop).jpg Minister of Agriculture 13 December 1949 20 September 1957 Holland
2 Jack Marshall
Jack Marshall, 1957.jpg Attorney-General
Minister of Justice
20 September 1957 12 December 1957 Holyoake
3 Jerry Skinner
Jerry Skinner.jpg Minister of Agriculture
Minister of Lands
12 December 1957 12 December 1960 Nash
(2) Jack Marshall
Jack Marshall, 1972.jpg 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
Muldoon 1978.jpg Minister of Finance 9 February 1972 8 December 1972 Marshall
5 Hugh Watt
Hugh Watt, 1951 (1).jpg Minister of Labour
Minister of Works
8 December 1972 1 September 1974 Kirk
6 Bob Tizard
Bob Tizard, 1968.jpg Minister of Finance 10 September 1974 12 December 1975 Rowling
7 Brian Talboys
Brian Talboys, 1980.jpg Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Overseas Trade
12 December 1975 4 March 1981 Muldoon
8 Duncan MacIntyre
Duncan MacIntyre Greg Tate (crop).jpg Minister of Agriculture 4 March 1981 15 March 1984
9 Jim McLay
(born 1945)
Jim McLay (cropped).jpg Attorney-General
Minister of Justice
15 March 1984 26 July 1984
10 Geoffrey Palmer
(born 1942)
Geoffrey Palmer.jpg Attorney-General
Minister of Justice
26 July 1984 8 August 1989 Lange
11 Helen Clark
(born 1950)
Helen Clark UNDP 2010.jpg Minister of Labour
Minister of Health
8 August 1989 2 November 1990 Palmer
12 Don McKinnon
(born 1939)
Don McKinnon 2012.jpg Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Overseas Trade
2 November 1990 16 December 1996 Bolger
13 Winston Peters
(born 1945)
Winston Peters, 2011.jpg Treasurer 16 December 1996 14 August 1998
14 Wyatt Creech
(born 1946)
Wyatt Creech, 1998.jpg Minister of Education
Minister of Health
14 August 1998 10 December 1999
15 Jim Anderton
Jim Anderton, 2010 (cropped).jpg Minister of Economic Development
Minister of Customs
10 December 1999 15 August 2002 Clark
16 Michael Cullen
Michael Cullen, 2008.jpg Minister of Finance
Leader of the House
15 August 2002 19 November 2008
17 Bill English
(born 1961)
Bill English July 2017.jpg Minister of Finance
Minister for Infrastructure
19 November 2008 12 December 2016 Key
18 Paula Bennett
(born 1969)
Paula Bennett in 2018.png Minister of State Services
Minister of Police
Minister of Tourism
12 December 2016 26 October 2017 English
(13) Winston Peters
(born 1945)
Winston Peters, 2019.jpg Minister of Foreign Affairs
Minister for State Owned Enterprises
26 October 2017 6 November 2020 Ardern
19 Grant Robertson
(born 1971)
Hon Grant Robertson.jpg Minister of Finance
Minister for Infrastructure
6 November 2020 Incumbent

Living former deputy prime ministers

As of March 2023, 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.

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