Key Points:

MPs have unanimously passed a motion asking that they not get a pay rise this year.

The parliamentary motion proposed by Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons called on the Remuneration Authority to freeze MPs' pay when they consider the issue later in the year.

Ms Fitzsimons had originally proposed a pay freeze for the entire parliamentary term.

The Greens had wanted a three-year freeze but Prime Minister John Key rejected that, saying it would be "by definition signing up to a recession for three years and I don't accept that proposition".

The two party leaders agreed on the one-year compromise earlier today and the rest of Parliament agreed to the motion without dissent when it sat for the first time this year.

Mr Key has already written to the Remuneration Authority, which sets MPs' pay, asking it not to award a pay rise this year.

He also said he understood Governor-General Anand Satyanand was writing to the authority requesting no pay rise, "so I'm sure judges and the like will also take a similar view".

Mr Satyanand earns $187,000 a year, tax-free.

"I'm sure the Remuneration Authority, in reaching their conclusion on pay rounds, will take into consideration that this is a time of restraint and that it is important that we, as well-paid New Zealanders, show leadership," Mr Key said.

"I don't think we're putting them in a difficult position. I think they can understand the conditions that we face. This is a recession that will envelope all of New Zealand and it's important that they take that into consideration, and I think they are."

Labour leader Phil Goff said he had no problem with MPs not getting a pay rise this year.

MPs and Parliament had to show leadership and restraint but submissions and resolutions of the House would not influence the authority, he said.

"By law they have to be independent. The only way to influence the Remuneration Authority is to change the law under which it operates."

It would be a simple law change to ensure the authority took into account economic conditions.

Mr Goff said there was a constitutional concern that Parliament has passed a law telling the authority how to act and was now passing a resolution contradicting this.