Part 1: Registering a Party

Application form

Applicants must complete the Electoral Commission’s party registration application form. The form can be downloaded from www.elections.org.nz. The form contains a checklist to help ensure documentation is complete before submitting the application to the Commission.

A hard copy of the application can be sent by post, courier or hand-delivered to:
    Electoral Commission
    Level 10, 34-42 Manners Street, Wellington
    PO Box 3220, Wellington

Electronic documents can be emailed to: enquiries@elections.govt.nz.

Who can apply on behalf of a party?

An application to register a political party can only be made by:

  • the party secretary, or
  • any MP who is a current financial member of the party.

Times when registration is prohibited

Applications cannot be processed at certain times. It is important to check when an application is submitted that the Commission is able to take action to register a party.

An application to register a party cannot be progressed during the period beginning with writ day and ending with the last day for the return of the writ for a general election. Writ day is usually a month before election day and the last day for the return of the writ is 50 days from writ day. An overview of key of dates for registered parties in an election year can be found at Appendix C.

There is no restriction on registering a party when a by-election is called.

Non-registration period

Registering a party

Registering a logo

General election (writ day to return of the writ)

By-election (writ day to return of the writ)

If there is an accompanying logo application, no action can be taken by the Commission to register a logo application during the period beginning with writ day and ending with the last day for the return of the writ for either a general election or a by-election.

Where the Commission cannot progress an application, the party will be notified in writing and informed of the date when the application can again be progressed.

Deadline for registration

A political party must be registered by writ day for the general election to be able to contest the party vote and submit a party list. A party must be registered by the date for dissolution of Parliament for a general election to receive a share of the money available under the broadcasting allocation.

Parties should allow a minimum of eight weeks for the Commission to process an application for party registration, including:

  • one week for the Commission to complete an initial assessment of the application
  • two weeks to undertake membership checks (including contacting members)
  • one week to arrange for the public consultation advertisements to be published
  • two weeks for public comment on the application, and
  • two weeks to finalise the application if no objections are received.

If there are problems with the application which require the party to amend it, or if objections are lodged at the consultation stage, the processing time will be extended and include the time taken by the party to respond.

Although there is no statutory deadline for submission of a registration application prior to a general election, it is important to allow sufficient time for the application to be processed by the Commission before writ day.  Accordingly, parties are encouraged to submit their application as early as possible when applying in an election year. Applicants should note that elections can be called at short notice.

Applying for registration

The Electoral Act requires that an application for party registration must include:

  • the name of the party secretary and their postal address
  • an acceptable party name (and any abbreviation)
  • satisfactory evidence of at least 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol
  • statutory declarations from the party secretary regarding membership evidence, the party’s intention to contest general elections and component parties
  • party membership and candidate selection rules (if the rules are not provided with the application, they must be provided within one month of registration)
  • consent from the auditor appointed by the party to their appointment, and
  • payment of an application fee of $500.

Each of these requirements is explained in detail below.

Party secretary

The party secretary in relation to a party means the person (whatever his or her designation or office) whose duties include responsibility for carrying out the administration of the party and conducting the correspondence of the party.

The application for registration must detail the name and postal address of the party secretary. It should also include contact telephone numbers and an email address for communications.

Following the registration of the party, as well as being a point of contact, the party secretary has personal responsibility to complete certain compliance tasks such as providing an annual statutory declaration confirming continuing eligibility for registration, the annual party donations and loans return, authorising party election advertising, and filing the party expenses return. A party secretary who fails to meet these obligations may be committing an offence and face penalties, such as fines or imprisonment, under the Electoral Act.

The party secretary’s contact details (including a contact address, email and telephone number) are published in the Register of Political Parties on the Commission’s website. A link to the party’s website is also included in the Register. The Commission will use these contact details to communicate with party secretaries for compliance purposes and during electoral events. Members of the public may also use these contact details to get in touch with the party secretary with enquiries or complaints about the party.

A newly registered party may also wish to appoint officials to assist the party secretary – although this is not a legal requirement. These may include a treasurer to oversee party finances and a membership secretary to manage new members and renewals.

Acceptable party name 

A party name (and any abbreviation) will be accepted provided it:

  • is not offensive or indecent
  • is not likely to confuse or mislead voters
  • is not excessively long (the name should not be longer than 52 characters including spaces and punctuation), or
  • does not refer to an honour or title or similar form of identification.

An abbreviated name may be registered for use on the ballot paper. The abbreviation should be a shortened version of the party name. It may include, or be, an acronym, but it should not be an alternative name.

A party name (and any abbreviation) approved for registration will appear on the Register of Political Parties, ballot papers and other official publications exactly as submitted, including capitalisation, punctuation and any acronyms.

It is not possible to reserve a party name or abbreviation with the Commission before an application for registration is submitted. Registration of a party does not grant any intellectual property rights. It is for the Commission’s Board to determine the acceptability of a party’s name following the public consultation process (see Part 3). Commission staff may be able to provide guidance on the acceptability of a party name based on current registered party names and names that have been accepted or rejected previously.

The Commission recommends that a party name (and any abbreviation) is not changed just prior to the application for registration, or during registration. This is because it may lead to members being confused as to which party they have joined. Guidance about the process to change a party name or abbreviation can be found in Part 5 of this handbook.

Evidence of 500 members

For a party to be registered, the Commission’s Board must be satisfied the party has at least 500 current financial members that are eligible to enrol as electors.

Who is an eligible member?

An eligible member is a current financial member who is eligible to enrol as an elector.

Current financial member - membership fee

A current financial member is someone who has:

  • applied for membership in accordance with the party’s rules
  • paid the required fee on becoming a member, and
  • has an obligation to pay a membership fee at specified intervals of not more than three years.

It is up to the party to decide what the fee should be and how frequently membership fees should be paid. However, a fee to renew the membership must be paid at least every three years. There is no statutory minimum fee, but to be an eligible member the person must have paid a fee. In setting the membership fee, a party should consider the ongoing costs that will be incurred by a registered party such as the cost of running an election campaign, the cost of engaging an auditor to audit all party returns and the cost of submitting a party list for a general election ($1,000) or standing electorate candidates ($300 per candidate).

Eligibility of members to enrol

The main eligibility requirements to enrol as an elector are the person:

  • is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • is aged 18 years or more, and
  • has lived at some time in New Zealand continuously for one year or more.

The main grounds of disqualification from enrolment that could affect a member’s eligibility are:

  • a New Zealand citizen who has not been in New Zealand within the last three years
  • a permanent resident who has not been in New Zealand within the last 12 months, or
  • a person currently in prison serving a sentence of imprisonment.

Section 80 of the Electoral Act sets out the other grounds of disqualification that affect a very small number of people.

Parties may have members who are not required to pay a membership fee or who are not eligible to enrol as an elector, for example, life members who either do not pay a fee or who pay a one-off fee, members who are under 18 years, and sponsored members.

These members do not count towards the minimum of 500 eligible members and their details should not be included with an application for registration.

What evidence is needed of 500 eligible members?

The applicant must submit membership evidence for at least 500, but no more than 550, eligible members. The Commission recommends applicants provide evidence of 550 members with the application. The application should record the total number submitted.

The Commission requires:

  • membership evidence for each eligible member in the form of a signed declaration (usually the membership form) sorted alphabetically by surname, and
  • an electronic spreadsheet of membership evidence sorted alphabetically by surname.

The membership form

The membership form should include the following information completed by each member:

  • the member’s name and residential street address
  • confirmation by the member that they are a registered elector or are eligible to enrol as an elector
  • the amount of the membership fee that has been paid to the party
  • the member’s signature
  • authorisation for the party to record them as a financial member of the party, and
  • authorisation for the party to release their membership details to the Electoral Commission for the purpose of the application to register the party under the Electoral Act.

A template party membership form is available for download, see Appendix B. Text marked bold contains the minimum requirements that each member should complete. The template membership form also includes supplementary information that will assist the party and the Commission to check a member’s eligibility to enrol as an elector.

The Commission is happy to check your proposed form before you use it to ensure that the completed membership forms satisfy the evidential requirements.

If you would like your proposed form checked please contact the Commission at enquiries@elections.govt.nz or phone 04 495 0030.

If the mandatory information is not included on the membership form, it will not be acceptable. The Commission will notify the party in writing and advise them of the next steps, including what further evidence may be required.

The party can collect membership evidence using paper forms or electronically (i.e. via a website or an app) or both. The Commission will accept the following types of signatures captured electronically for party membership purposes:

  • images of signatures that are electronic replications of actual ‘pen-and-paper’ signatures, such as scanned or photographic images, and
  • images of signatures that are produced and captured electronically using technologies such as signature pads, trackpads/touchpads or the mouse, light pens, or similar devices.

The Commission will accept original forms or signed forms that have been submitted to the party and provided to the Commission electronically. Applicants may also submit membership forms via an online drop-box.

However, the memberships forms must be in the same order as the spreadsheet and the applicant must notify the Commission if any additional forms are submitted to the drop-box.

NOTE: You should ensure when you collect new memberships, the individual is aware that they are joining a political party as a member, rather than making a donation or supporting a specific cause.

Spreadsheet of membership evidence

The spreadsheet should include each eligible member’s:

  • name (first names and surname)
  • residential address
  • date of birth (if provided)
  • contact details
  • enrolment status or eligibility to enrol, and
  • the membership fee paid and the date the membership fee/application was processed.

A template spreadsheet is available for download from www.elections.org.nz, see Appendix B. Members must be sorted alphabetically by surname in the spreadsheet.

Joint memberships

Some party’s membership forms allow for joint or household memberships. Where multiple members are included on one membership form, it must be clear that each member has paid a membership fee (i.e. the form should make it clear how much is paid by each member). In addition, each individual member must sign the membership form.

Overseas members

Some parties may have members that reside overseas and these members may be included in the 500 membership evidence. However, the party must provide the Commission with clear evidence that these members are eligible to enrol as electors in New Zealand. Evidence will need to be provided that an overseas member is:

  • a New Zealand citizen who has been in New Zealand within the last three years, or
  • a permanent resident who has been in New Zealand within the last 12 months.

This evidence may be provided via the membership form by the overseas member stating on the form the date of their last visit to New Zealand.

Privacy and membership information

A member’s consent is not required before his or her name is released to the Commission, but the member’s consent must be obtained before any other information about the member is released to the Commission (such as the member’s address which is required by the Commission, or information not needed for the Commission’s purposes but which may be on the form).

Applicants should be aware that the Commission may be asked under the Official Information Act 1982 to release the application documents provided to the Commission for the purposes of registration.

The Commission must consider each request on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982 and the Privacy Act 1993. In general, the Commission does not release the documents unless it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the public interest, based on its responsibility to ensure the integrity of the registration process. Parties should be aware that a refusal to release the documents can be appealed to the Ombudsman. Applicants may wish to seek their own legal advice on the privacy issues involved in providing application information including membership information to the Commission.

The Commission will return the hard copies of membership forms to the party secretary following the determination of the party registration process. All electronic information with regard to individual party members’ details held by the Commission will be deleted six months from the date the application was determined. If an application is put on hold, i.e. at the party’s request, the Commission will return or delete membership evidence six months after the application is put on hold.

Checking membership forms

The Commission initially checks the membership evidence to be satisfied there is valid evidence of at least 500 members submitted with the application. The Commission aims to complete these initial checks within five working days, but this will depend on the quality of the membership evidence submitted.

If there is not valid evidence of 500 memberships, the process is stopped and the party is notified.

Where there are fewer than 500 valid members after the initial check of membership evidence, or if any membership evidence has been invalidated, the Commission will allow the applicant one opportunity to supply additional membership evidence to make the number of members up to 550 (excluding those found to be invalid). This is the only point during the registration process that additional membership evidence can be supplied by the applicant.

Additional membership evidence must be supplied within the time specified by the Commission (this will normally be within a two week period). Where there are fewer than 500 valid memberships and the applicant does not provide additional membership evidence within the specified period the Commission will return the application to the applicant on the basis the application does not meet the statutory requirements. Where there are more than 500 valid memberships, and the applicant does not supply any additional membership evidence, the application can continue to be processed. Additional membership evidence cannot be added at a later stage.

Reasons completed forms are not counted

Membership forms will not be counted that:

  • do not include the member’s full name and/or residential street address
  • do not include confirmation by the person that they are enrolled or are eligible to enrol as an elector
  • do not confirm that the person has paid a membership fee
  • do not clearly differentiate between sponsored and multiple memberships
  • are not legible
  • have not been signed by the person
  • are from people under the age of 18, or
  • are duplicates.

Membership checks

When the Commission is satisfied there are more than 500 valid memberships, it will proceed with the enrolment and membership authentication checks.  The Commission aims to complete the enrolment and authentication checks within ten working days, but this can take longer if we experience difficulties contacting members or determining a member’s eligibility to enrol.

Enrolment checks

The Commission will randomly select a number of valid forms to check if the members are on the electoral rolls. This confirms that the member is eligible to enrol. 

The number of members that need to be confirmed as enrolled, or eligible to enrol, for the Commission to be confident the party has at least 500 members who are eligible to enrol is determined by the size of the sample checked and the number of valid memberships provided with the application to register.

If a member is not on the electoral rolls, the Commission needs to establish that the person is eligible to enrol. To be satisfied that any member who is not enrolled is eligible to enrol the Commission will try and contact the member to check their eligibility. The Commission may also check whether the member is disqualified from enrolment under any of the grounds listed in section 80 of the Electoral Act.

Where a member cannot be found on the electoral rolls and their eligibility to enrol cannot be confirmed they will be recorded as a ‘fail’. If, after checking the random sample of members, the number of fails is above the maximum number of permitted fails for the sample size the application will have prima facie failed the electoral checks. The applicant will be notified at this stage of the number of fails and the application will generally be referred to the Board for consideration at this stage.

A party is not able to provide additional membership evidence at this stage. Where a party wishes to submit further membership evidence after electoral checks have been completed a new application must be made.

Membership authentication checks

The Commission will also randomly select a sample of valid forms and contact those members to authenticate that they are members of the party and that they have paid a membership fee on joining the party. This check is a basic authentication check rather than a statistical exercise.

If there are significant issues raised during this stage of the process, the applicant will be notified of the issues and asked to provide a response. If these issues cannot be resolved, the application may go straight to the Commission’s Board for consideration.

Statutory declarations

The party secretary is required to make statutory declarations that accompany the application to confirm:

  1. that the party has at least 500 current financial members who are eligible to enrol as electors, and
  2. that the party intends at general elections to submit a party list, or have one or more electorate candidates stand for the party (or for a related party), or both, and
  3. whether or not the party has any component parties and, if so, naming them.

The Commission interprets the declaration required under 2. above as relating to an overall intention to contest general elections rather than an intention to contest any particular general election.

A template declaration is provided for adaptation and use by applicants, which is included with the application form and is available for download from www.elections.org.nz, see Appendix B. The template uses the form for statutory declarations required by the Oaths and Declaration Act 1957. The statutory declaration needs to be witnessed by a solicitor, Justice of the Peace or other person authorised to take a statutory declaration.

Party rules

The supply of the party rules to the Commission allows the public to be satisfied the party has rules regarding party memberships and democratic processes for the selection of candidates.

Apart from the requirements for membership rules and democratic candidate selection, the Electoral Act has no rules regulating how parties operate and how they are governed. Any organisation seeking to become a registered political party may wish to seek independent legal advice on its governance structure and rules.

The supply of party rules (sometimes referred to as the party’s constitution) is required by the Electoral Act within one month of registration being notified in the Gazette, and the Commission is required to make them available for public inspection (via its website).

The supply of these rules with an application for registration helps the Commission confirm the definition of current financial member for that party. Rules may be supplied in hardcopy and/or an electronic version. The rules must include:

  • the date of their adoption by the party, and
  • outline a democratic process for the selection of constituency and list candidates for general elections.

Copies of the rules provided by currently registered political parties are included with the Register of Political Parties, available at www.elections.org.nz.

Auditor

The application for registration must detail the name and postal address of the person or firm the party has appointed as auditor. The auditor must be a chartered accountant who holds a Certificate of Public Practice. The auditor should complete and sign the consent to appointment on the application form.

A partnership may be named as auditor. A body corporate may not be named as auditor, but an employee of a body corporate can be.

Parties and prospective auditors are referred to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 1993, the Financial Reporting Act 2013 and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand Act 1996 (and the Institute Rules), which sets out the requirement of who may be an auditor and what they must do in auditing and reporting on the annual returns of party donations and loans and returns of party expenses.

The Commission must be satisfied that the auditor appointed by the party is eligible to act in that capacity.

Section 206K of the Electoral Act provides that the following persons are not eligible to be appointed as an auditor:

  • a constituency candidate
  • a list candidate
  • an employee or partner of a constituency or list candidate
  • an officer or employee of a party
  • a body corporate that is not a registered audit firm (within the meaning of the Auditor Regulation Act 2011 and is not recognised for the purposes of section 36(1)(f) or (g) of the Financial Reporting Act 2013)
  • a person who, by virtue of section 36(1) of the Financial Reporting Act 2013, may not be appointed or act as an auditor of a company, or
  • a Returning Officer.

A member of the party who is not an office holder is eligible to act as an auditor.

Parties wanting to find an auditor should contact Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand at www.charteredaccountantsanz.com.

The Commission will contact Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand to confirm that the auditor is a chartered accountant who holds a Certificate of Public Practice. The party will be notified by the Commission if the auditor is not a chartered accountant or there is any other reason why the auditor is not eligible to act in that capacity.

An eligible auditor must be appointed and have provided written consent to appointment before the registration application can be considered by the Commission’s Board.

It is up to the party and the auditor as to how payments for services are negotiated. A party member may provide auditing services free of charge, but as noted above, they cannot be an officer or direct employee of the party.

Application fee

Each application to register a party must include payment of the application fee of $500 (inclusive of GST) by direct credit or bank cheque.
Payment by direct credit should be made into the Electoral Commission’s bank account: 02-0506-0077435-00

Please include the name of the party as the reference. Bank cheques should be made payable to “Electoral Commission”.

The fee is non-refundable.

A fee is payable for each application made to register a party, including a subsequent application made following the cancellation of registration of a party or if a processed application is returned to the party and the party subsequently submits a new application.

Last updated: 01 May 2017