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The New Zealand Parliament was created by the British
New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 which established a
bicameral legislature officially called the "General Assembly", but usually referred to as Parliament. It was based on the
Westminster model (that is, the model of the British Parliament) and had a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the Legislative Council. The members of the House of Representatives were elected under the
first-past-the-post (FPP) voting system, while those of the Council were appointed by the Governor. Originally Councillors were appointed for life, but later their terms were fixed at seven years. This change, coupled with
responsible government (whereby the Premier advised the Governor on Council appointments) and party politics, meant that by the 20th century, the government usually controlled the Council as well as the House, and the passage of bills through the Council became a formality. In 1951, the Council was abolished altogether, making the New Zealand legislature
Under the Constitution Act, legislative power was also conferred on
New Zealand's provinces (originally six in number), each of which had its own elected Legislative Council. These provincial legislatures were able to legislate for their provinces on most subjects. However, New Zealand was never a
federal dominion like Canada or Australia; Parliament could legislate concurrently with the provinces on any matter, and in the event of a conflict, the law passed by Parliament would prevail. Over a twenty-year period, political power was progressively centralised, and the provinces were abolished altogether in 1876.
Māori electorates were created in 1867 during the term of the
 The Māori electorates have lasted far longer than the intended five years. In 2002, the seats increased in number to seven.
Chamber of the House of Representatives c. 1900-1902
Originally the New Zealand Parliament remained subordinate to the British Parliament, the supreme legislative authority for the entire British Empire. The New Zealand Parliament received progressively more control over New Zealand affairs through the passage of Imperial (British) laws such as the
Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, constitutional amendments, and an increasingly hands-off approach by the British government. Finally, in 1947, the
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act gave Parliament full power over New Zealand law, and the British
New Zealand Constitution Amendment Act 1947 allowed Parliament to regulate its own composition. In 1986 a new
Constitution Act was passed, restating the few remaining provisions of the 1852 Act, consolidating the legislation establishing Parliament and officially replacing the name "General Assembly" with "Parliament".
One historical speciality of the New Zealand Parliament was the country quota, which gave greater representation to rural politics. From 1889 on (and even earlier in more informal forms), districts were weighted according to their urban/rural split (with any locality of less than 2,000 people considered rural). Those districts which had large rural proportions received a greater number of nominal votes than they actually contained voters – as an example, in 1927,
Waipawa, a district without any urban population at all, received an additional 4,153 nominal votes to its actual 14,838 – having the maximum factor of 28% extra representation. The country quota was in effect until it was abolished in 1945 by a mostly urban-elected Labour government, which went back to a
one person, one vote system.