The shock and sadness at the sudden death of Green Party MP Fa’anana Efeso Collins has been widely felt across the political spectrum today.

The death of a sitting MP has become a rare occasion, with Labour MP Parekura Horomia’s passing in 2013 the most recent until today.

Before that, Green Party co-leader Rod Donald died at the age of 48 in 2005.

An MP’s death obviously affects their whānau, friends, colleagues, and communities, but also has ramifications for the House of Representatives.

Parliamentary protocol

Parliament will meet at 2pm today, where several party leaders, including Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Opposition Leader Chris Hipkins, will pay tribute to Collins.

The House will then adjourn until next week.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said a full tribute to Collins, who had only recently made his maiden speech to Parliament, would be scheduled for a later date.

Replacing an MP

How an MP is replaced in Parliament depends on whether they were a list MP or electorate MP.

If the representative was an electorate MP, a by-election must be held. However, if a general election is less than six months away, the seat can be left vacant if 75% of the House agrees.

The process is simpler if the representative was a list MP.

According to Parliament’s website, the Governor-General directs the Electoral Commission to fill the seat.

The new MP must come from the same party as the former MP. The Electoral Commission will check that the next person on the party’s list is still a member of that party and if they agree to become an MP.

If they meet those conditions, they are declared elected. If they are not a member of the party anymore or don’t agree to become an MP, it moves to the next person on the party’s list.

If there is nobody left on the list, the seat remains vacant until the general election.

Efeso Collins was elected for his first term as a list MP last year. The next person on the Green Party’s list is Dr Lawrence Xu-Nan.