1984 New Zealand general election

Last updated

Flag of New Zealand.svg
  1981 14 July 1984 1987  

All 95 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
48 seats needed for a majority
 First partySecond party
  David Lange (1992).jpg Muldoon 1978.jpg
Leader David Lange Sir Robert Muldoon
Party Labour National
Leader since 3 February 1983 9 July 1974
Leader's seat Mangere Tamaki
Last election4347
Seats won5637
Seat changeIncrease2.svg13Decrease2.svg10
Popular vote829,154692,494

 Third partyFourth party
  Bruce Craig Beetham.jpg No image.png
Leader Bruce Beetham Bob Jones
Party Social Credit NZ Party
Leader since14 May 197222 August 1983
Leader's seat Rangitīkei (lost seat) Ohariu (did not win seat)
Last election2Not yet founded
Seats won20
Seat changeSteady2.svg 0Steady2.svg 0
Popular vote147,162236,385
SwingDecrease2.svg 13.07%Increase2.svg 12.25%

Prime Minister before election

Robert Muldoon

Elected Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 41st New Zealand Parliament. It marked the beginning of the Fourth Labour Government, with David Lange's Labour Party defeating the long-serving Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, of the National Party. It was also the last election in which the Social Credit Party won seats as an independent entity. The election was also the only one in which the New Zealand Party, a protest party, played any substantial role.

41st New Zealand Parliament

The 41st New Zealand Parliament was a term of the Parliament of New Zealand. Its composition was determined by the 1984 elections, and it sat until the 1987 elections.

The Fourth Labour Government of New Zealand governed New Zealand from 26 July 1984 to 2 November 1990. It was the first Labour government to win a second consecutive term since the First Labour Government of 1935 to 1949. The policy agenda of the Fourth Labour Government differed significantly from that of previous Labour governments: it enacted major social reforms and economic reforms.

David Lange 32nd Prime Minister of New Zealand

David Russell Lange was a New Zealand politician who served as the 32nd Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1984 to 1989.



Before the election, the National Party governed with 47 seats, a small majority. The opposition Labour Party held 43 seats, and the Social Credit Party held two. Although National theoretically commanded a two-seat lead over the other parties, dissent within the National caucus (particularly by Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue) resulted in serious problems for National leader Robert Muldoon. Muldoon felt that he could no longer maintain a majority until the end of the sitting year. [1]

A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Nepal. As the use of the term has expanded, the exact definition has come to vary between political cultures.

Marilyn Waring New Zealand politician

Marilyn Joy Waring is a New Zealand feminist, politician, activist for female human rights and environmental issues, development consultant and United Nations expert, and author and academic, known as a principal founder of the discipline of feminist economics.

Michael John Minogue was a National Party politician, lawyer and mayor.

The 1984 election was called when Marilyn Waring told Muldoon that she would not support his government in the vote over an opposition-sponsored anti-nuclear bill. Muldoon, visibly drunk, [2] [3] [4] announced a snap election on national television. It is believed that Muldoon's behaviour was also the result of a number of personal factors, including, not least, tiredness and frustration, but alcohol and diabetes also, issues that had been plaguing him for some time. [5]

A snap election is an election called earlier than expected.

There is debate over whether the election was necessary — Waring had not threatened to block confidence and supply, meaning that the government could still have continued on even if it had lost the anti-nuclear vote. Nevertheless, Muldoon appears to have wanted an election to reinforce his mandate (just as Sidney Holland sought and won a mandate to oppose striking dock-workers with the 1951 snap election).

In a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster system, confidence and supply are required for a minority government to retain power in the lower house.

Sidney Holland 25th Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Sidney George Holland was a New Zealand politician who served as the 25th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 13 December 1949 to 20 September 1957. He was instrumental in the creation and consolidation of the New Zealand National Party, which was to dominate New Zealand politics for much of the second half of the 20th century.

1951 New Zealand general election

The 1951 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 30th term. The First National Government was re-elected, with the National Party increasing its parliamentary majority over the opposition Labour Party.

Muldoon's government, which had been growing increasingly unpopular in its third term, was seen as rigid, inflexible, and increasingly unresponsive to public concerns. The Labour Party had actually gained a plurality of the vote in the previous two elections, but had narrowly missed out on getting a majority of the seats. Labour's primary campaign message was one of change — Muldoon's government, which employed wage and price controls in an attempt to "guide" the economy, was widely blamed for poor economic performance. Labour also campaigned to reduce government borrowing, and to enact nuclear-free policy.

The New Zealand Party, founded by property tycoon Bob Jones, was launched primarily to oppose the Muldoon government (although it did not support Labour). A right-wing liberal party, it promoted less government control over markets, in contrast to the paternalist and somewhat authoritarian policies of National, the other significant right-wing party.

Sir Robert Edward Jones, known as Sir Bob Jones, is a property investor, author and former politician in New Zealand.

Paternalism action limiting a person’s or group’s liberty or autonomy intended to promote their own good

Paternalism is action that limits a person's or group's liberty or autonomy and is intended to promote their own good. Paternalism can also imply that the behavior is against or regardless of the will of a person, or also that the behavior expresses an attitude of superiority. Paternalism, paternalistic and paternalist have all been used as a pejorative.

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Under an authoritarian regime, individual freedoms are subordinate to the state, and there is no constitutional accountability and no rule of law. Authoritarian regimes can be autocratic, with power concentrated in one person, or can be a committee, with power shared among officials and government institutions. The political scientist Juan Linz synthesized authoritarian political systems as possessing four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, realized with legalistic constraints on the legislature, political parties, and interest groups;
  2. Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion, and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat enemies of the people, socio-economic underdevelopment, and guerrilla insurgency;
  3. Minimal social mobilization consequent to legalistic constraints, such as political suppression of all anti-regime activities;
  4. Informally defined executive powers, which extend and allow government authority into every sphere of life.

Electoral changes

The 1983 electoral redistribution was even more politically influenced than the previous one in 1977. The Labour Party believed it had been disadvantaged in 1977 and it was not to let this happen again. Every proposal was put to intense scrutiny, and this resulted in the electoral redistribution taking forty-one working days; the average length of the five previous redistributions was eight. As Social Credit had two MPs, the Labour Party nominee on the commission formally represented that party, which further increased tensions. The 1981 census had shown that the North Island had experienced further population growth, and three additional general seats were created, bringing the total number of electorates to 95. [6] The South Island had, for the first time, experienced a population loss, but its number of general electorates was fixed at 25 since the 1967 electoral redistribution. [7] More of the South Island population was moving to Christchurch, and two electorates were abolished (Dunedin Central and Papanui), while two electorates were recreated (Christchurch North and Dunedin West). In the North Island, six electorates were newly created (Glenfield, Otara, Panmure, Tongariro, Waikaremoana, and West Auckland), three electorates were recreated (Franklin, Raglan, and Rodney), and six electorates were abolished (Albany, Helensville, Hunua, Otahuhu, Rangiriri, and Taupo). [8]

Social Credit Party (New Zealand)

The New Zealand Social Credit Party was a political party which served as the country's "third party" from the 1950s through into the 1980s. The party held a number of seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives, although never more than two at a time. It has since renamed itself the New Zealand Democratic Party, and was for a time part of the Alliance.

Christchurch City in South Island, New Zealand

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand's third-most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington. The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks.

Papanui is a former New Zealand parliamentary electorate. The electorate was in the northern suburbs of the city of Christchurch, and existed from 1969 to 1984.

The election

The election was held on 14 July. There were 2,111,651 registered voters. Turnout was 93.7%, the highest turnout ever recorded in a New Zealand election. Most political scientists attribute the high turnout to a desire by voters for change. [9]

Immediately after the election there was a constitutional crisis when Muldoon initially refused to follow the advice of the incoming Labour government and devalue the New Zealand Dollar.

Summary of results


The 1984 election saw the Labour Party win 56 of the 95 seats in parliament, a gain of 13. This was enough for it to hold an outright majority and become the fourth Labour government. The National Party won only 37 seats, a loss of ten. The New Zealand Party, despite winning 12.2% of the vote, failed to gain any seats at all. Social Credit managed to win two seats, the same number as it had held previously. The Values Party, an environmentalist group, gained fifth place, but no seats.

There were 95 seats being contested in the 1984 election, three more than in the previous parliament. All but two of these seats were won by one of the two major parties.

The Labour Party, previously in opposition, won 56 seats, an outright majority. Most of the seats won by Labour were in urban areas, following the party's typical pattern. Exceptions to this general trend include the eastern tip of the North Island and the western coast of the South Island. Labour's strongest regions were the Wellington area (where the party won every seat), as well as Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin (cities in which it won most seats). Smaller cities such as Hamilton, Nelson, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North were also won by Labour. As expected, Labour also won all four Māori seats, maintaining its traditional strength there.

The National Party, the incumbent government, was (as expected) strongest in rural areas. Most of the rural North Island was won by National, as were a most of the rural areas on the South Island's eastern coast. In the larger cities, the party fared poorly, with Auckland and Christchurch being the only places that the party won seats. It was more successful in smaller cities, however, winning Rotorua, Tauranga, Invercargill, New Plymouth and Whangarei. It was placed second in two Māori electorates, and third in the other two.

The only minor party to win electorates was the Social Credit Party, which won East Coast Bays and Pakuranga (both in Auckland). It had held East Coast Bays before the election, but won Pakuranga for the first time. It did not manage to retain Rangitikei, which it had also held before the election. Social Credit candidates were placed second in six electorates, including Rangitikei.

The New Zealand Party, despite gaining more votes than Social Credit, did not win any seats. Some commentators have suggested that the party was not seeking to do so, and instead was merely acting as a spoiler for National. This impression has been backed up by comments by Bob Jones himself. The party was, however, placed second in the electorates of Remuera (an affluent part of Auckland), Kaimai (a region in the Bay of Plenty), and Tauranga.

The Values Party, an environmentalist group, managed to win 0.2% of the vote, substantially below previous efforts. The party, which was in slow decline, would eventually vanish, but its ideals and goals would be reborn in the Green Party.

In two of the Māori electorates, the Mana Motuhake party gained second place, but the party did not gain a substantial number of votes elsewhere.

No independent candidates won seats, but one independent candidate, Mel Courtney, was placed second in the electorate of Nelson.

Detailed results

Party results

CountOf total (%)
Labour 95829,15442.9756+13
National 95692,49435.8937−10
NZ Party 95236,38512.2500
Social Credit 95147,1627.6320
Mana Motuhake 85,9890.3100
Values 293,8260.2000
Independents 5720,5881.0700

Votes summary

Popular Vote
NZ Party
Social Credit
Parliament seats
Social Credit

Electorate results

The tables below shows the results of the 1984 general election:


  National     Labour     NZ Party   
  Social Credit     Mana Motuhake     Independent   
Electorate results for the New Zealand general election, 1984. [10]
ElectorateIncumbentWinnerMajorityRunner up
General electorates
Ashburton Rob Talbot 472G Stone
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 8,876Maureen Eardley-Wilmot
Avon Mary Batchelor 7,771A P Cowie
Awarua Rex Austin 384B G Raitt
Bay of Islands Neill Austin 3,298 Les Hunter
Birkenhead Jim McLay 1,717John Course
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer 8,508Tony Willy
Christchurch North New electorate Mike Moore 5,728D J L Dumergue
Clutha Robin Gray 4,522M J Sheppard
Dunedin North Stan Rodger 5,129Barbara Henderson
Dunedin West New electorate Clive Matthewson 6,011Derek Russell
East Cape Duncan MacIntyre Anne Fraser 755Robyn J. Leeming [11]
East Coast Bays Gary Knapp 2,020 Murray McCully
Eastern Hutt Trevor Young 6,005 Joy McLauchlan
Eden Aussie Malcolm Richard Northey 2,306Aussie Malcolm
Fendalton Philip Burdon 1,457Murray Dobson
Franklin New electorate Bill Birch 5,210Roy Haywood
Glenfield New electorate Judy Keall 809David Schnauer
Gisborne Bob Bell Allan Wallbank 1,100Bob Bell
Hamilton East Ian Shearer Bill Dillon 2,168Ian Shearer
Hamilton West Mike Minogue Trevor Mallard 809Mike Minogue
Hastings David Butcher 4,273P D Brown
Hauraki Graeme Lee 3,432Alisdair Thompson
Hawkes Bay Richard Harrison Bill Sutton 974Richard Harrison
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 4,537Anna MacFarlane
Horowhenua Geoff Thompson Annette King 447Geoff Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones 1,279David Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 6,007John Kananghinis
Kaimai Bruce Townshend 3,696Leslie Dickson
Kaipara Peter Ian Wilkinson Lockwood Smith 5,564Bill Campbell
Kapiti Margaret Shields 4,514June Oakley
King Country Jim Bolger 5,617J E Simons
Lyttelton Ann Hercus 4,963D G Graham
Manawatu Michael Cox 420Dave Alton
Mangere David Lange 8,375Peter Saunders
Manurewa Roger Douglas 4,933Stuart Leenstra
Marlborough Doug Kidd 612G MacDonald
Matamata Jack Luxton 5,785Ross Clow
Miramar Peter Neilsen 3,499Don Crosbie
Mt Albert Helen Clark 6,207Rod Cavanagh
Napier Geoff Braybrooke 6,399M P Liddell
Nelson Philip Woollaston 3,459 Mel Courtney
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 6,340Ron Hanson
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander 269 Ida Gaskin
North Shore George Gair 3,710Peter Harris
Ohariu Hugh Templeton Peter Dunne 1,371Hugh Templeton [nb 1]
Onehunga Fred Gerbic 4,508Carol Freeman
Otago Warren Cooper 1,375David Polson
Otara New electorate Colin Moyle 6,519Taua Michael Tafua
Pahiatua John Falloon 5,478Malcolm Brazendale
Pakuranga Pat Hunt Neil Morrison 172Pat Hunt
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene 3,033C G Singleton
Panmure New electorate Bob Tizard 5,979Carolyn Tedesco
Papakura Merv Wellington 1,447D L John
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey 2,996Peter O'Brien
Pencarrow Fraser Colman 5,418Barry Cranston
Porirua Gerard Wall 5,418A L Gadsby
Raglan New electorate Simon Upton 1,976L Holmes
Rangiora Derek Quigley Jim Gerard 346B C Tomlinson
Rangitikei Bruce Beetham Denis Marshall 5,799Bruce Beetham
Remuera Allan Highet Doug Graham 3,483Kenneth Sandford
Rodney New electorate Don McKinnon 3,876Brian Dent
Roskill Phil Goff 4,208Chris Knowles
Rotorua Paul East 811Brian Arps
St Albans David Caygill 6,172Ian Wilson
St Kilda Michael Cullen 5,594Stewart Clark
Selwyn Ruth Richardson 3,829C E Manning
Sydenham John Kirk [nb 2] Jim Anderton 7,255Ernest Lascelles Bonisch
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 3,758Robin Tulloch
Taranaki David Thomson Roger Maxwell 6,013G N Waters
Tarawera Ian McLean 3,377Malcolm Moore
Tasman Bill Rowling Ken Shirley 1,854Gerald Hunt
Tauranga Keith Allen Winston Peters 4,912David Parlour
Te Atatu Michael Bassett 4,991F W G Diment
Timaru Basil Arthur 2,219 Maurice McTigue
Tongariro New electorate Noel Scott 3,870Nelson Rangi
Waikaremoana New electorate Roger McClay 1,737John Harré
Waikato Simon Upton Rob Storey 1,658Peter Cleave
Waipa Marilyn Waring Katherine O'Regan 5,667A H Allen
Wairarapa Ben Couch Reg Boorman 394Ben Couch
Waitakere Ralph Maxwell 4,474John McIntosh
Waitaki Jonathan Elworthy Jim Sutton 561Jonathan Elworthy
Waitotara Venn Young 3,314Stuart Perry
Wallace Derek Angus 5,663Calvin Fisher
Wanganui Russell Marshall 3,918 Terry Heffernan
Wellington Central Fran Wilde 4,116Rosemary Young-Rouse
West Auckland New electorate Jack Elder 2,229 Dail Jones
West Coast Kerry Burke 4,293J W Bateman
Western Hutt John Terris 4,348John Tanner
Whangarei John Banks 2,003Barbara Magner
Yaldhurst Mick Connelly Margaret Austin 2,970H Joseph
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 11,230B R Kiwara
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 7,688 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 10,495Amster Reedy
Western Maori Koro Wētere 10,110Bill Katene

Table footnotes:

  1. Bob Jones came third for the New Zealand Party in Ohariu
  2. In July 1983 Kirk said he would not stand in 1984: when Anderton was selected for Sydenham, Kirk (a Lange supporter) withdrew from the Labour caucus and was suspended by Labour, becoming an independent

Summary of changes

Major policy platforms

Labour Party

National Party

Further reading


  1. 1961-, Johansson, Jon, (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 72. ISBN   1877399019. OCLC   63658626.
  2. "Eyewitness News – Snap Election Setup". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  3. "Sips causing political slips". Television New Zealand . 28 March 2001. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  4. YouTube – Drunk Muldoon calls the 1984 election
  5. 1961-, Johansson, Jon, (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 103. ISBN   1877399019. OCLC   63658626.
  6. McRobie 1989, pp. 123f.
  7. McRobie 1989, pp. 111, 123.
  8. McRobie 1989, pp. 119–124.
  9. http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Trust%20and%20participation%20in%20government/voter-turnout.aspx
  10. Norton 1988, pp. ?.
  11. Gustafson 1986, p. 372.
  12. "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. NZ On Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. NZ On Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. NZ On Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television | NZ On Screen". www.nzonscreen.com. NZ On Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)

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