1938 New Zealand general election

Last updated

1938 New Zealand general election
Flag of New Zealand.svg
  1935 14 (Māori) & 15 October (general) 1938 1943  

All 80 seats in the New Zealand Parliament
41 seats were needed for a majority
 First partySecond party
  Michael Joseph Savage Portrait (cropped).jpg Adam Hamilton (1926).jpg
Leader Michael Joseph Savage Adam Hamilton
Party Labour National
Leader since 12 October 1933 31 October 1936
Leader's seat Auckland West Wallace
Last election53 seats, 45.7%19 seats, 32.9% (as United–Reform Coalition)
Seats won5325
Seat changeSteady2.svg 0Increase2.svg 6
Popular vote528,290381,081
SwingIncrease2.svg 10.1%Increase2.svg 7.4%

1938 New Zealand general election - Results.svg
Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

Michael Joseph Savage

Subsequent Prime Minister

Michael Joseph Savage

The 1938 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 26th term. It resulted in the governing Labour Party being re-elected, although the newly founded National Party gained a certain amount of ground.


This was the first election in which the Māori were given a secret ballot which had been available to white voters since 1870.


The Labour Party had won a resounding victory in the 1935 elections, winning fifty-three seats. Shortly after the elections, the two Ratana-aligned MPs also merged into the Labour Party, giving Labour a total of fifty-five seats. The government, a coalition of the United Party and the Reform Party, had won only nineteen seats. Shortly after their defeat, United and Reform agreed to merge into the National Party, which positioned itself as the only alternative to the "socialist" Labour Party. However, Labour remained popular with the public, and the Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, was widely praised for his welfare reform. The leadership of the National Party, by contrast, was closely associated by the public with the Great Depression, and struggled to gain traction.

The election

The date for the main 1938 elections was 15 October, a Saturday. Elections to the four Maori electorates were held the day before. 995,173 people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 92.9%. This turnout was the highest ever recorded at that point, although it was later exceeded in the two elections after World War II and in the 1984 elections. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902. [1]


The 1938 election saw a decisive win for the governing Labour Party, which won fifty-three seats. This was a drop of two from what it held prior to the election. While Labour gained the seats of Bay of Islands, Motueka (previously held by Keith Holyoake), New Plymouth, Wellington Suburbs, and Northern Maori, it lost Tauranga and the rural seats of Manawatu, Rangitikei, Waikato, Mid-Canterbury, and Waipawa.

The National Party won twenty-five seats, an increase of six from that the United–Reform Coalition had previously won. Both Labour and National increased their share of the popular vote, with Labour winning 55.8% (up from 46.1%) and National winning 40.3% (up from 32.9%). This increase was at the expense of the Democrat Party (who had merged into National in 1936) [2] and the agrarian monetary reformist Country Party, which saw its votes collapse completely. The Country Party lost the two seats it held (Bay of Islands and Franklin) as, unlike 1935, Labour stood candidates in the seats held by the two Country Party members. Hence Harold Rushworth did not stand in the Bay of Islands seat, and Arthur Sexton came third in Franklin.

Independent candidates also lost ground, with only two being elected, Harry Atmore (Nelson) and Charles Wilkinson (Egmont). As in 1935, the independents were tactically supported by one of the major parties who did not stand a candidate against them, and they generally voted with that party; Wilkinson and Wright had supported National while Atmore had supported Labour. But Robert Wright was defeated for the new electorate of Wellington West by Labour despite National not running a candidate against him. [3]

An analysis of men and women on the rolls against the votes recorded showed that in the 1938 election 92.85% of those on the European rolls voted; men 93.43% and women 92.27%. In the 1935 election the figures were 90.75% with men 92.02% and women 89.46%. As the Māori electorates did not have electoral rolls they could not be included. [4] [5]

This was the first election in which the Māori were given a secret ballot. Secret ballots had been available to white voters since 1870, but it was not extended to Māori voters until the 1937 Electoral Amendment Act was passed. The number of votes cast in the Māori seats in the 1938 election rose 18.3% from the 1935 election. Opponents of the secret ballot for the Māori claimed that the Māori suffered from illiteracy, but only 2.28% of the ballots were ruled invalid. Member of Parliament Eruera Tirikatene praised the secret ballot for the Māori as he regarded it as one of the rights promised in the Treaty of Waitangi. [6] [7]

Party standings

Map of electorates. New Zealand Electorates 1938.png
Map of electorates.
1938 nz parliament.svg
Election results
PartyCandidatesVotesPercentageSeats wonchange
Labour 78528,29055.8053-2*
National 77381,08140.3025+9
Country Party 52,1990.230-2
Independents 1634,8233.652-3

*includes two Ratana MPs (Toko Ratana, Eruera Tirikatene) who joined the Labour caucus after the 1935 election

Votes summary

Popular Vote
Country Party
Parliament seats

Electorate results

The following table shows the detailed results:


  Labour     National     Country Party     Independent     Independent Liberal   

Electorate results for the 1938 New Zealand general election [8] [9]
ElectorateIncumbentWinnerMajorityRunner up
General electorates
Auckland Central Bill Parry 6,181Clifford Reid Dodd [10]
Auckland East Bill Schramm 2,626Harry Tom Merritt [11] [12]
Auckland Suburbs Rex Mason 4,862Maxwell Stuart Walker [13]
Auckland West Michael Joseph Savage 8,007 John W. Kealy [14]
Avon Dan Sullivan 6,179 Hiram Hunter
Awarua James Hargest 660Joseph Albert Beck [15]
Bay of Islands Harold Rushworth Charles Boswell 163Harold Fisher Guy [16]
Bay of Plenty Gordon Hultquist 169 Bill Sullivan
Buller Paddy Webb 6,144Terrence Maddison
Central Otago William Bodkin 1,231James McIndoe Mackay [17]
Christchurch East Tim Armstrong 7,179Ken Armour
Christchurch North Sidney Holland 492 Robert Macfarlane
Christchurch South Ted Howard 5,995Gladstone Ward [18]
Clutha James Roy 714Herbert Kerr Edie
Dunedin Central Peter Neilson 3,814William John Meade
Dunedin North Jim Munro 3,557 Alexander Smith Falconer [19] [20] [21] [22]
Dunedin South Fred Jones 4,314Rev. Ernest Aderman
Dunedin West Dr Gervan McMillan 2,639 Stuart Sidey [23]
Eden Bill Anderton 2,333Donald Pool [24]
Egmont Charles Wilkinson 1,402Thomas Trask
Franklin Arthur Sexton Jack Massey 2,057Ernest Piggott [16]
Gisborne David Coleman 3,640Kenneth Jones
Grey Lynn John A. Lee 8,607Joseph Alexander Govan [11]
Hamilton Charles Barrell 1,860Albert William Grant [25] [16]
Hauraki General Charles Robert Petrie John Manchester Allen 1,188 Robert Coulter
Hawkes Bay Ted Cullen 2,658 George Maddison [26] [27]
Hurunui George Forbes 535Harold Denton
Hutt Walter Nash 6,814 John Andrews [28]
Invercargill William Denham 2,156 Fred Hall-Jones [23]
Kaiapoi Morgan Williams 1,535George Warren
Kaipara Gordon Coates 1,689Percy MacGregor Stewart [16]
Lyttelton Terry McCombs 2,984Isaac Wilson [29]
Manawatu Lorrie Hunter John Cobbe 1,644Lorrie Hunter
Marlborough New electorate Ted Meachen 1,525 Edward Healy
Marsden Jim Barclay 557 Alfred Murdoch
Masterton John Robertson 190Jack Irving
Mataura David McDougall Tom Macdonald 1,515David McDougall
Mid-Canterbury Horace Herring Arthur Grigg 74 Horace Herring
Motueka Keith Holyoake Jerry Skinner 870 Keith Holyoake
Napier Bill Barnard 3,937 John Ormond [30]
Nelson Harry Atmore 886John Robert Kerr
New Plymouth Sydney George Smith Fred Frost 869Sydney George Smith
Oamaru Arnold Nordmeyer 758Michael Francis Edward Cooney [31]
Onehunga New electorate Arthur Osborne 4,314 John Park [32] [33]
Otahuhu New electorate Charles Robert Petrie 2,267Kenneth Tennent [34]
Otaki Leonard Lowry 1,367George Alexander Monk [35]
Pahiatua Alfred Ransom 931George Anders Hansen [36]
Palmerston North Joe Hodgens 2,118 Jimmy Nash [37]
Patea Harold Dickie 809Charles Joseph Duggan [38] [39]
Raglan Lee Martin 604 Andy Sutherland [40]
Rangitikei Ormond Wilson Edward Gordon 311Ormond Wilson
Remuera New electorate Bill Endean 2,861 Mary Dreaver [41]
Riccarton Bert Kyle 87Thomas Herbert Langford [42]
Roskill Arthur Shapton Richards 2,141Arthur Sagar Bailey [13]
Rotorua Alexander Moncur 1,648Henry William Nixon [43]
Stratford William Polson 1,101James Watson McMillan
Tauranga Charles Burnett Frederick Doidge 1,138Charles Burnett
Temuka Thomas Burnett 1,249James Arnold Kearton
Thames Jim Thorn 2,295William Alexander Clark
Timaru Clyde Carr 2,196W H Hall
Waikato Robert Coulter Stan Goosman 2,928J W Neate
Waimarino Frank Langstone 2,940Cecil Boles
Waipawa Max Christie Albert Jull 446Max Christie
Wairarapa Ben Roberts 777 James Frederick Thompson [44]
Waitaki David Barnes David Campbell Kidd 14David Barnes
Waitemata Jack Lyon 2,261John Ernest Close [13]
Waitomo Walter Broadfoot 329Jack Jones [45]
Wallace Adam Hamilton 844John James Lynch
Wanganui Joe Cotterill 3,920Henry Charles Veitch
Wellington Central Peter Fraser 3,837 Will Appleton [46]
Wellington East Bob Semple 4,736William Long Barker [47]
Wellington North Charles Chapman 3,278 Elizabeth Gilmer [48]
Wellington South Robert McKeen 6,415David Howlett [49]
Wellington Suburbs Robert Wright Harry Combs 3,163 Ossie Mazengarb
Wellington West New electorate Catherine Stewart 956 Robert Wright
Westland James O'Brien 3,729 Ted Taylor
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Āpirana Ngata 1,064 Rēweti Kōhere
Northern Maori Taurekareka Henare Paraire Karaka Paikea 2,011Taurekareka Henare
Southern Maori Eruera Tirikatene 485Thomas Kaiporohu Bragg
Western Maori Toko Ratana 4,267 Pei Te Hurinui Jones

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Joseph Savage</span> Prime minister of New Zealand from 1935 to 1940

Michael Joseph Savage was a New Zealand politician who served as the 23rd prime minister of New Zealand, heading the First Labour Government from 1935 until his death in 1940.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1935 New Zealand general election</span>

The 1935 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 25th term. It resulted in the Labour Party's first electoral victory, with Michael Joseph Savage becoming the first Labour Prime Minister after defeating the governing coalition, consisting of the United Party and the Reform Party, in a landslide.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1931 New Zealand general election</span>

The 1931 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 24th term. It resulted in the newly formed coalition between the United Party and the Reform Party remaining in office as the United–Reform Coalition Government, although the opposition Labour Party made some minor gains despite tallying more votes than any other single party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1943 New Zealand general election</span>

The 1943 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 27th term. With the onset of World War II, elections were initially postponed, but it was eventually decided to hold a general election in September 1943, around two years after it would normally have occurred. The election saw the governing Labour Party re-elected by a comfortable margin, although the party nevertheless lost considerable ground to the expanding National Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1946 New Zealand general election</span>

The 1946 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 28th term. It saw the governing Labour Party re-elected, but by a substantially narrower margin than in the three previous elections. The National Party continued its gradual rise.

The Independent Political Labour League (IPLL) was a small New Zealand political party. It was the second organised political party to win a seat in the House of Representatives, and was a forerunner of the modern Labour Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">25th New Zealand Parliament</span>

The 25th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It opened on 25 March 1936, following the 1935 election. It was dissolved on 16 September 1938 in preparation for the 1938 election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">24th New Zealand Parliament</span>

The 24th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It opened on 23 February 1932, following the 1931 election. It was dissolved on 1 November 1935 in preparation for the 1935 election. The 24th Parliament was extended by one year because the 1935 election was held later than anticipated due to the ongoing depression, similarly the 1919, and the 1943 elections were held two years late, having been postponed during World War I and World War II respectively.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1928 New Zealand general election</span> Election of 1928

The 1928 New Zealand general election was held on 13 and 14 November in the Māori and European electorates, respectively, to elect 80 MPs to the 23rd session of the New Zealand Parliament.

Christchurch East Electoral district in Canterbury, New Zealand

Christchurch East, originally called Christchurch City East, is a current New Zealand parliamentary electorate. It was first created for the 1871 election and was abolished for two period, from 1875–1905 and again from 1946–1996. It was last created for the introduction of the MMP voting system for the 1996 election. The current MP is Poto Williams, a member of the New Zealand Labour Party who was first elected in the 2013 Christchurch East by-election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jim Munro (politician)</span> New Zealand politician

James Wright Munro was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party.

Bay of Islands is a former New Zealand parliamentary electorate. It existed during various periods between 1853 and 1993. It was thus one of the original 24 electoral districts, and New Zealand's first ever MP was elected, although unopposed, in the Bay of Islands; Hugh Carleton thus liked to be called the Father of the House.

Grey Lynn is a former New Zealand parliamentary electorate, in the city of Auckland. It existed from 1902 to 1978, and was represented by nine Members of Parliament.

Alexander Donald McLeod was a Reform Party Member of Parliament in the Wairarapa region of New Zealand. He was Minister of Lands (1924–1928) and Industries and Commerce (1926–1928) in the Reform Government.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ernest Davis (brewer)</span> New Zealand mayor

Sir Ernest Hyam Davis was a New Zealand businessman, and was Mayor of Auckland City from 1935 to 1941. He was also on other Auckland local bodies and on various philanthropic and sporting organisations. He was Mayor of Newmarket from 1909 to 1910.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Melville Lyons</span>

Melville Edwin Lyons, sometimes called Tiny, was briefly a Reform Party Member of Parliament in New Zealand until his election was declared void. A journalist by trade, he became involved in local politics in Christchurch after having served in WWI. He was Deputy Mayor of Christchurch for six years under mayor Ernest Andrews.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">27th New Zealand Parliament</span>

The 27th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1943 general election in September of that year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">26th New Zealand Parliament</span>

The 26th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1938 general election in October of that year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Brindle (politician)</span>

Thomas Brindle was a New Zealand activist for the New Zealand Labour Party who was jailed during World War I for speaking out against conscription. He was a member of Wellington City Council and stood for election to the House of Representatives five times. He was a member of the Legislative Council from 1936 until March 1950.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1945 Western Maori by-election</span> New Zealand by-election

The Western Maori by-election 1945 was a by-election held in the Western Maori electorate during the 28th New Zealand Parliament, on 10 February 1945.


  1. "General elections 1853-2005 - dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  2. Gustafson 1986, p. 7.
  3. Milne, Robert Stephen (1966). Political Parties in New Zealand . Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. p.  76.
  4. New Zealand Official Year-book, 1942 p778
  5. "The New Zealand Official Year-Book, 1942". Government Printer. 28 June 2015. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  6. "Progress of Maoris". Gisborne Herald . 14 July 1939. p. 5. Archived from the original on 14 July 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  7. "No Secret Ballot until 1937". New Zealand Parliament . Archived from the original on 14 July 2021. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  8. "The General Election, 1938". National Library. 1939. pp. 1–6. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
  9. "Candidates for tomorrow's election". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 91. 14 October 1938. p. 18. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  10. "Notice of Nominations Received and Polling Places Appointed". Auckland Star . Vol. LXVI, no. 268. 12 November 1935. p. 9. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  11. 1 2 "Parliamentary Election". Auckland Star . Vol. LXIX, no. 254. 27 October 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  12. Gustafson 1986, pp. 26, 28.
  13. 1 2 3 "Electoral". The New Zealand Herald . Vol. LXXV, no. 23180. 28 October 1938. p. 3. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  14. Gustafson 1986, p. 370.
  15. "Declaration of result of poll for the electoral district of Awarua". Western Star. 28 October 1938. p. 3. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  16. 1 2 3 4 "Electoral". The New Zealand Herald . Vol. LXXV, no. 23181. 29 October 1938. p. 25. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  17. "Declaration of Result of Poll for the Electoral District of Central Otago". Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette. 13 October 1943. p. 4. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  18. "The By-Election". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVII, no. 128. 2 June 1939. p. 8. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  19. Ammentorp, Steen. "Falconer". generals.dk. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  20. "Alexander Smith Falconer". Auckland War Memorial Museum . Retrieved 8 July 2022 via Online Cenotaph.
  21. "Brigadier A. S. Falconer". New Zealand Electronic Text Centre . Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  22. Gustafson 1986, p. 362.
  23. 1 2 "The Mantle of Seddon". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 90. 13 October 1938. p. 24. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  24. "Election Review". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 83. 5 October 1938. p. 15. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  25. Gustafson 1986, p. 366.
  26. Webb, Brendan (20 September 2010). "No Sign of Mayors". BayBuzz. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  27. "Hawke's Bay Seats". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 90. 13 October 1938. p. 11. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  28. "Public Notices". The Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 82. 4 October 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  29. "The Lyttelton seat: National Party candidate". The Press . Vol. LXXIV, no. 22464. 27 July 1938. p. 12. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  30. Bremer, Robert James. "Ormond, John Davies Wilder". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  31. "Otago Contests". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 73. 23 September 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  32. "The Onehunga Seat". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 59. 7 September 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  33. "Discover Onehunga's Rich History". Onehunga Business Association. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  34. "Parliamentary Elections". Auckland Star . Vol. LXIX, no. 233. 3 October 1938. p. 11. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  35. "Public Notices". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 82. 4 October 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  36. "Labour Candidates". Evening Post . Vol. CXXV, no. 82. 7 April 1938. p. 17. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  37. "J. A. Nash". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 89. 12 October 1938. p. 18. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  38. "The Labour Party". Auckland Star . Vol. LXIX, no. 192. 16 August 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  39. "Labour Candidates". Evening Post . Vol. CX, no. 61. 9 September 1925. p. 6. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  40. Gustafson 1986, p. 345.
  41. Laracy, Hugh. "Dreaver, Mary Manson". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  42. "Tammany Hall". Evening Post . Vol. CXL, no. 52. 30 August 1945. p. 9. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  43. "General Election". Auckland Star . Vol. LXIX, no. 116. 19 May 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  44. "Wairarapa Electorate". Upper Hutt Weekly Review. Vol. III, no. 43. 14 October 1938. p. 3. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  45. "Mrs. R. Bleasel". Auckland Star . Vol. LXIX, no. 277. 23 November 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  46. Buchan, Allison. "Appleton, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  47. "Public Notices". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 98. 22 October 1938. p. 5. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  48. Labrum, Bronwyn. "Gilmer, Elizabeth May". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  49. "General Election". Evening Post . Vol. CXXVI, no. 45. 22 August 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 10 November 2013.

Other sources