Establishment of Representative Institutions
The first effective legislation to provide New Zealand with representative institutions is “An Act to Grant a Representative Constitution to the Colony of New Zealand” passed by the Imperial Parliament in 1852. Apart from dividing the country into six provinces with their own elected councils the Act also established a General Assembly of which the present General Assembly is a direct descendant. It consisted of the Governor, a Legislative Council, and a House of Representatives. Legislative Councillors were appointed for life by the Governor. Members of the House of Representatives were elected for five years or until the Assembly was dissolved.
The Constitution Act did not grant responsible government. In the first Parliament, which met in 1854 in Auckland, the House of Representatives therefore passed a motion praying for the “establishment of ministerial responsibility in the conduct of Legislative and Executive proceedings by the Government”. The prayer was granted in 1856 after a general election, the civil servants on the Executive Council giving way to Ministers supported by the majority in the House of Representatives. The Governor, however, still did not act only on Ministerial advice. In some matters his Instructions permitted him to make decisions without obtaining the approval of the Executive Council, either at his own discretion, or along lines laid down by the Imperial Government. There remained important limitations on the legal powers of Parliament until 1947. The successive removal of these limitations and the general decline of the Legislative Council are the two main aspects of parliamentary development since 1852.