New Zealand Government
The New Zealand structure is similar to that of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries. The Queen is the constitutional head of the country and her role is fulfilled by an appointed Governor General. This appointment is made on the advice of New Zealand Ministers of the Crown and is for a term of 5 years.
Generally, the Governor General follows the advice and recommendations of the Prime Minister. A Prime Minister is sworn to office by the Governor General following an election and he/she is usually the leader of the party who controls the majority in Parliament.
New Zealand has a single house known as The House of Parliament. It is the body that governs and comprises 120 elected members. Elections are held every three years and all over the age of 18 can elect to vote. Unlike some countries, voting is not compulsory. Citizens have one vote each. Electoral boundaries are set by an independent body and reviewed regularly. They take into account demographic movements, including shifts in population to ensure that representation is fair.
Following a nationwide referendum, the country moved to a system of proportional representation from the national elections in late 1996, similar to that in Germany. Voters elected to support MMP for a two term trial, throwing out the first past the post system in a closely run ballot. The changes have seen considerable political activity with the emergence of a number of smaller parties, all of whom are keen to take advantage of perceived opportunities. We currently have a Centre-Right Government with a number of other parties influencing the balance of power.
Each city or sizable community has an elected local government who are responsible for local issues i.e. water reticulation, libraries, parks, street maintenance etc. Local governments (known as Councils) receive their funding in the main from rates levied on properties, though do receive some targeted Central Government funding.
Migrants are eligible to vote 12 months after residing in New Zealand and registering as a voter with the electoral office. This applies to both central and local governments.