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2017 General Election

Elections logo.

Election day for the 2017 New Zealand General Election is Saturday 23 September. The General Election provides a useful context to build students' understanding of Parliament and the voting process. This resource page provides ideas and resources to help you plan programmes of learning around this significant event.

Image sourced from the Electoral Commission website.

Links to The New Zealand Curriculum

By focusing on the General Election and the New Zealand system of government in your curriculum you can explore the values of equity, and community and participation with your students. Conceptual understandings from social sciences can be examined, especially those derived from the identity, culture, and organisation strand:

Social sciences learning area image.

Identity, culture, and organisation – Students learn about society and communities and how they function. They also learn about the diverse cultures and identities of people within those communities and about the effects of these on the participation of groups and individuals.

Students can also develop key competencies as they consider the relationship between local issues and our national system of government, and how they themselves can participate in this system.

Did you know?

  • The first parliamentary elections were held in New Zealand in 1853.
  • Not everyone had the right to vote back then. Women, most Māori men, and a minority of European men were excluded.
  • Over the next 50 years the vote was extended to all and New Zealand became one of the most democratic nations in the world.
  • New Zealand is known as a parliamentary democracy.
  • New Zealanders aged 18 and over can vote for members of Parliament (MPs).
  • Elections are held every three years.
  • Under the mixed member proportional system (MMP), New Zealanders cast two votes – one for a political party, and one for a local MP.
  • The number of seats each party gains in Parliament is determined by how much of the total party vote the party gets. The party which has a majority in the House of Representatives forms the government.
  • Under MMP it is less likely than under ‘first-past-the-post’ that a single party will have a majority. Coalition or minority governments have become usual.
  • Under the 1975 Māori electoral option, Māori can choose whether to vote in a general or a Māori electorate. The number of Māori seats in Parliament can change depending on how many voters opt to be on the Māori electoral roll.

Electoral commission teaching resources

Kids Voting programme 
The Kids Voting programme gives your school everything it needs to run a mock election. Teach your students about real candidates, parties and election issues, and give them a first-hand voting experience.

Have Your Say teaching units
These units align with levels 3 and 4 of the New Zealand Curriculum. They aim to encourage your students to have their say on decisions that affect their lives.

Be Heard teaching units
These units align with level 5 of the New Zealand Curriculum. They explore how voting, New Zealand’s government and issues that local communities face all affect one another. Connect voting to your students’ own lives to deepen their understanding of how New Zealand's government works.

Tūranga Mua, Tūranga Tika teaching units
These units align with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – Tikanga-ā-Iwi. Use them in Māori-medium classrooms to explore the role of Māori in decision-making in the past, present and future. The units focus on showing students how Māori have met their physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs through participating in democracy.

Votes for Women teaching units
These teaching units align with level 4 of the New Zealand Curriculum. Use them to connect the suffragists’ achievement to how voters engage with and take part in democracy today.

Supporting resources

Understanding New Zealand's Constitution
This resource provides support for social studies teachers to incorporate learning related to understanding our constitution into their social studies programmes. The materials use fact sheets produced for the ‘Constitution Conversation’. It is envisaged that the teaching and learning can be integrated into current classroom programmes. This resource has been developed for level 5 and can be adapted to suit the needs of your students and their particular level. 

Explore Parliament
Explore Parliament resource materials focus on the work of Parliament as well as providing teacher support material and links to the New Zealand curriculum. Two sets are available – a primary set (Years 5-8) and a secondary set (Years 9-10).  Each set contains ten laminated cards and a teacher’s guide.

Te Ara – Institutions of Government
Te Ara provides a good overview of the New Zealand Government including the history of our government, where New Zealand fits in with the rest of the world, and our electoral systems.

New Zealand History Online – Politics and government
New Zealand History Online provides information on elections from the past leading up to the present.

New Zealand History Online – Parliament's people
This section from New Zealand History Online takes a look at the people in New Zealand's Parliament, the Members of Parliament (MPs), staff, spectators, reporters and broadcasters.

New Zealand History Online – Parliament in words and pictures
This section from New Zealand History Online explores Parliament in words and pictures - how the business, buildings, and people of the House have been portrayed in media ranging from cartoons to postcards.

On the democracy road
This teaching and learning sequence from ESOL Online suggests activities to help students learn about the NZ system of government and know how to vote.

Senior secondary guides – Legal studies
This level 6 senior secondary guide has been designed to help teachers create quality teaching and learning programmes around legal concepts and principles which include democracy, government, law, and justice.

Updated on: 13 Mar 2017