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General Election 2020

Elections logo.

Election day for the 2020 New Zealand General Election is Saturday 17 October. 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.

About the General Election 

The Beehive, Wellington.

New Zealand usually has a general election every 3 years to decide who represents us in government. Voters will elect 120 members to the House of Representatives under New Zealand's mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system.

Facts about New Zealand elections:

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Two referendums will be held alongside this year's election. New Zealanders can vote on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal and whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force.

How can you get involved?

Kids Voting logo.

Some ideas for classroom programmes or school-wide activities:

Run a mock election with the 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.

Teach your students about voting using the Electoral Commission resources

  • The Making Choices resource aligns with levels 1 and 2 of the New Zealand Curriculum. Use it to encourage young students to share opinions and make choices that affect their lives.
  • The Have Your Say resource aligns with levels 3 and 4 of the New Zealand Curriculum. It aims to encourage your students to have their say on decisions that affect their lives.
  • The Votes for Women resource (scroll to the bottom of the page) aligns with level 4 of the New Zealand Curriculum. It connect the suffragists’ achievement to how voters engage with and take part in democracy today.
  • The Be Heard resource align with level 5 of the New Zealand Curriculum. It explores 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 aligns with Te Marautanga o Aotearoa – Tikanga-ā-Iwi. Use it in Māori-medium classrooms to explore the role of Māori in decision-making in the past, present and future. The resource focus on showing students how Māori have met their physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs through participating in democracy.

Explore parliament
Learn more about Parliament and its processes with your students. A range of learning resources are available on the New Zealand Parliament website including a virtual reality tour. 

Learn about the Suffragette movement 
Work with your students to understand the Suffragette movement. This blog from the National Library provides links to a range of resources and this text from the Instructional Series describes women's fight to vote. 

Instructional series 

Check out these titles from the instructional series to support your learning around the General Election:

The Winning Side, School Journal Level 4 May 2020
This story references general elections, in the context of an election to a school council. “The Winning Side” introduces a few big ideas: the need for a platform, the importance of giving everyone a voice, and why we vote.

Let's Vote On It, School Journal Level 2 May 2020
The author uses this light-hearted play to introduce ideas about voting, elections, and MMP. A monster is roaming the kingdom and causing mayhem. The characters come up with various ways to deal with the threat and then vote on the solutions. The resolution sees the problem solved peacefully through communication.

The Fight to Vote, School Journal Level 3, October 2015 
On 28 November 1893, women went to the polling booth for the first time. It was a famous victory – a radical change – but it didn't come without a fight.

Bird of the Year, Junior Journal 59, Level 2, 2019
In this interview, Megan Hubscher of Forest & Bird talks to Iona McNaughton about the Bird of the Year competition – why it started and how it helps keep New Zealand native birds safe. Students can explore the voting process and make links to the General Election. 

Useful 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.

Do you have a story to share about the General Election?

What General Election projects have your students been involved in?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a line at nzcurriculum@tki.org.nz. We will publish the best teaching and learning ideas on this resource page.

Updated on: 06 Jul 2020


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