Do we really need fewer MPs?

ACT have announced policy that would reduce the number of MPs from 120 to 100, and reduce the number of electorates. Are the targeting the real problems?

Our system of MMP was introduced in 1994 after a referendum supporting it in 1993. The system was reviewed in 2012 but the size of parliament was excluded from this.

In the last non-MMP election there were 99 electorate seats. In the first MMP election in 1996 there were 120 seats – the number was increased so that the reduced number of electorates didn’t get too big, and there were sufficient list seats to ensure reasonable proportionality. The number of seats varies slightly, and has ranged from 120 to 122 under MMP.

Estimated population of New Zealand:

  • 1996:  3,762,300
  • 2018:  4,749,598

Number of voters:

  • 1996:  2,418,587 – votes per electorate 20,155
  • 2017:  3,298,009 – votes per electorate 27,483

Number of eligible voters:

  • 1996:  2,739,057 – eligible voters per 120 electorates 22,825
  • 2017:  4,174,167 – eligible voters per 120 electorates 34,785

These numbers are calculated over all 120 electorates.

Comparisons if we had a 100 MP parliament:

  • 1996: eligible voters per 100 electorates 27,391
  • 2017: eligible voters per 120 electorates 41,742

So that means a significant reduction in voter power.

There are other and probably better ways of decreasing the cost of democracy without reducing the value of votes.  ACT addresses one of these:

“It will also restrict the number of high-paid Ministers to 20. Our Executive is far too big – currently standing at 31 people.

“Almost half of the Government MPs hold a position in the Executive. We have too many pointless ministerial portfolios. They are not improving the lives of New Zealanders and this bill will do away with them.

It is often claimed that every government has a handful of very good ministers, and the rest middling to mediocre. The number of Ministers and Ministries is a valid target for better efficiency and performance.

What about the number of MP support staff – advisers and PR staff. MPs need help with good advice, but the overhead of spin doctors deserves scrutiny. The number of ex journalists who are now employed in Parliament is probably significantly greater than the number of active press gallery journalists.

Also worth considering are number of paid members of working groups and inquiries, and paid consultants.

What about other elected bodies like DHBs? Merging some of them would reduce health sector overheads.

Councils? Would we be better off with fewer councils, or at least fewer councillors? A smaller number of full time councillors may be able to do a better job. Most people voting in local body elections don’t know most councillors.

It may seem like political sense for ACT to focus on a simple populist policy like cutting MP numbers, but it may not give us better democracy. It would certainly dilute our vote.

It’s easy to diss MPs and demand we have fewer, but reducing the number of them may simply increase the number of bureaucrats, advisers and consultants.

At least with MPs voters have a three yearly option to vote them out.

Voters have no power over non-MPs who are mostly faceless, unknown. They would have more power if we cut the number of MPs, and we the people would have less.


The Government must ensure that its decision to remove the cap on public service numbers will not see bureaucracy spiral out of control as it did under the last Labour Government, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.

“Between 2003 and 2008 under Labour, public service expenditure grew by 50 per cent with no improvement in outcomes for New Zealanders.

“Today’s announcement carries the risk that we’ll see another blowout of the public service and taxpayers’ money will again be frittered away on pointless bureaucracy.

“It comes at a time when the Government has outsourced most of its work to 122 working groups which could cost up to $1 million each.

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  4. Zedd

     /  13th August 2018

    I agree David.. IF one of the electorates you cut is EPSOM ! :/ 😀

  5. Duperez

     /  13th August 2018

    It’s consistent with ACT’s principles, more bang for our political bucks. And better democracy. Which is code for “give ACT more chance of having more power because as it is we’re crapping out.”
    I read Seymour saying that he and Paul Goldsmith were serving Epsom well but David Parker hadn’t been sighted.(I presumed that meant Parker lives in the electorate.) Maybe Parker’s got a job and is busy doing it. Maybe he is busy with some tv dance show. Maybe the deserving people of people of Epsom need three MPs running around after them. When the number of MPs are cut will Epsom still have three?

  6. Zedd

     /  13th August 2018

    Maybe David should join Natl & lead the charge to split them into; ‘centre-right’ & ‘Alt-right’ (2 parties) ?? 😀

    • Zedd

       /  13th August 2018

      he has more ‘mana’ than Bridges.. as a ‘party leader’ (IMHO) 🙂

  7. Blazer

     /  13th August 2018

    getting rid of say 20 or 21 M.P’s would save around $4mil to be used in other areas.

  8. PartisanZ

     /  13th August 2018

    If fewer MPs means automatic abolition of the Maori Seats, the answer is emphatically “No” …

    The Bill (I wrote “Bull” and then corrected it) which Seymour will introduce is a similar ploy to National’s ‘Medicinal Cannabis’ Bull … Bill … It’s designed for one purpose, to split the present-day, possibly one-term coalition …

    Better democracy is certainly not one of its purposes … (I guess it goes along with ACT’s true roots though … Selfish to the Core)

    How would fewer List MPs be affected by a lowering of the MMP threshold?

    The threshold-lowering is one thing that would give us better democracy … The more voices involved in deliberative democracy the better …

  9. Olegas J Bogdanovas

     /  13th August 2018

    Yes! We need many fewer MPs. Go back to the original representations by Province and major cities, or areas of population. OR: retain present system BUT DO AWAY with “List MPs”.

  1. Do we really need fewer MPs? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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