1984 New Zealand general election

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1984 New Zealand general election
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
Leader Bruce Beetham Bob Jones
Party Social Credit NZ Party
Leader since14 May 197221 August 1983
Leader's seat Rangitīkei (lost seat)None (contested Ohariu)
Last election2Not yet founded
Seats won20
Seat changeSteady2.svg 0Steady2.svg 0
Popular vote147,162236,385
SwingDecrease2.svg 13.07%Increase2.svg 12.25%

1984 New Zealand general election - Results.svg
Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

Robert Muldoon

Subsequent Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the composition 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.


A snap election, Muldoon called for it a month prior. When doing so he was both live on television and visibly drunk, leading to the election being dubbed the "schnapps election". [1]


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. [2]

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, [3] [4] [5] announced a snap election on national television on the night of 14 June. 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. [6] Muldoon's drunkenness while making the announcement led to the election being nicknamed the "schnapps election". [7] [8]

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).

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. [9]

MPs retiring in 1984

Seven National MPs and two Labour MPs intended to retire at the end of the 40th Parliament.

National Duncan MacIntyre East Cape
Peter Wilkinson Kaipara
Derek Quigley Rangiora
Allan Highet Remuera
David Thomson Taranaki
Keith Allen Tauranga
Marilyn Waring Waipa
Labour Bill Rowling Tasman
Mick Connelly Yaldhurst

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. [10] 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. [11] 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). [12]

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. [13]

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. [14]

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 form 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 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

1984 nz parliament.svg
CountOf total (%)
Labour 95829,15442.9856+13
National 95692,49435.9037−10
NZ Party 95236,38512.2500
Social Credit 95147,1627.6320
Mana Motuhake 85,9890.3100
Values 293,8710.2000
Others 5720,5881.0700

Votes summary

Popular Vote
NZ Party
Social Credit
Mana Motuhake
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 1984 New Zealand general election. [15]
ElectorateIncumbentWinnerMajorityRunner up


General electorates
Ashburton Rob Talbot 472G Stone
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 8,876Maureen Eardley-Wilmot
Avon Mary Batchelor 7,771Andrew Cowie
Awarua Rex Austin 384Barry Rait
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 5,728David 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 [16]
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
Gisborne Bob Bell Allan Wallbank 2,168Bob Bell
Glenfield New electorate Judy Keall 809David Schnauer
Hamilton East Ian Shearer Bill Dillon 1,100Ian Shearer
Hamilton West Mike Minogue Trevor Mallard 803Mike Minogue
Hastings David Butcher 4,273P D Brown
Hauraki Graeme Lee 3,432 Alisdair Thompson
Hawke's Bay Richard Harrison Bill Sutton 974Richard Harrison
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 4,537 Anna MacFarlane
Horowhenua Geoff Thompson Annette King 447Geoff Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones 1,279Dougal Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 6,007John Kananghinis
Kaimai Bruce Townshend 3,696Leslie Dickson
Kaipara Peter Wilkinson Lockwood Smith 5,564Bill Campbell
Kapiti Margaret Shields 4,514June Oakley
King Country Jim Bolger 5,617James Edward 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 612George 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 3,678 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 3,033Colleen 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 Gerry Wall 5,418A L Gadsby
Raglan New electorate Simon Upton 1,976L Holmes
Rangiora Derek Quigley Jim Gerard 346Brian Tomlinson
Rangitikei Bruce Beetham Denis Marshall 504Bruce 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 3,829Charles 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 5,667Anthony 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 4,116 Rosemary 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 2,970 Howard Joseph
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 11,230Barry 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. "Robert Muldoon | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  2. Johansson, Jon (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 72. ISBN   1877399019. OCLC   63658626.
  3. "Eyewitness News – Snap Election Setup". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  4. "Sips causing political slips". Television New Zealand . 28 March 2001. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  5. YouTube – Drunk Muldoon calls the 1984 election
  6. Johansson, Jon (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 103. ISBN   1877399019. OCLC   63658626.
  7. "Robert Muldoon". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  8. Martin Johnston (14 June 2019). "The night Prime Minister Rob Muldoon gambled on a snap election - June 1984 remembered". New Zealand Herald.
  9. Shand, G. G. (22 August 1983). "Jones Party Aims to Occupy Political Gap". The New Zealand Herald . p. 20.
  10. McRobie 1989, pp. 123f.
  11. McRobie 1989, pp. 111, 123.
  12. McRobie 1989, pp. 119–124.
  13. "Election flashback: 'He's won on a nothing policy' – watch bitter Muldoon concede to Lange in 1984". TVNZ . 19 September 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  14. Roughan, John (2 August 2005). "July 1984: When life in NZ turned upside down". The New Zealand Herald . Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  15. Norton 1988, pp. ?.
  16. Gustafson 1986, p. 372.
  17. 1 2 3 4 "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television". NZ On Screen . Retrieved 13 May 2018.

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