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New Zealand Parliament

The Beehive and Parliament House buildings

Executive Wing (known as the Beehive) beside Parliament House. Photo: Parliamentary Service Collection.

22 July 2011
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The difference between Parliament and Government

There is often confusion about the difference between the institutions of Parliament and Government or the difference between Parliament and the House of Representatives. These are not interchangeable terms. Each has very distinct functions.


Parliament has two constitutional parts:

  • The Sovereign (represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General)
  • The House of Representatives (all members of Parliament)

The four main functions of Parliament are:

  • To provide representation for the people
  • To pass the legislation (law) by which the country is governed
  • To scrutinize the activities of the Government
  • To approve the supply of public funds to the Government


The Government is made up of members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Governor-General as Ministers of the Crown. The House of Representatives must have “confidence” in the Government for it to continue in office. This is known as “responsible government”. The Government (also known as the Executive) is then responsible for day-to-day administration of the country.

Distribution of functions

To maintain a democracy, power cannot be concentrated entirely in one place. The functions in relation to the law are distributed as follows to ensure no single arm is able to abuse its power:

  • Parliament makes the law.
  • The Government administers the law.
  • The judiciary (through the courts) interprets the law.

On a practical level information on business conducted by Parliament in the House and in select committees will be found on this website.

Information on government activities such as ministerial press releases, departmental consultation documents, ministerial reviews or Cabinet documents will not be found on Parliament’s website. They will be found on the Beehive (Executive Government) website and the websites of government departments and agencies, including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.