Jenny Shipley

Last updated

Dame Jenny Shipley

Jenny Shipley 2013 (crop).jpg
Shipley in 2013
36th Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
8 December 1997 10 December 1999
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Michael Hardie Boys
Deputy Winston Peters
Wyatt Creech
Preceded by Jim Bolger
Succeeded by Helen Clark
28th Leader of the Opposition
In office
10 December 1999 8 October 2001
Prime MinisterHelen Clark
Preceded byHelen Clark
Succeeded by Bill English
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Rakaia
In office
27 October 1990 27 July 2002
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded by Brian Connell
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Ashburton
In office
15 August 1987 27 October 1990
Preceded by Rob Talbot
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Jennifer Mary Robson

(1952-02-04) 4 February 1952 (age 67)
Gore, New Zealand
Political party National Party
Burton Shipley(m. 1972)

Dame Jennifer Mary Shipley DNZM PC (née Robson; born 4 February 1952) [1] is a former New Zealand politician who served as the 36th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1997 to 1999. She was the first female prime minister of New Zealand, and is the only woman to have led the National Party. [2]

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.


Shipley was born in Gore, Southland. She grew up in rural Canterbury, and attended Marlborough Girls' College and the Christchurch College of Education. Before entering politics, she worked as a schoolteacher and was involved with various community organisations. Shipley was elected to Parliament at the 1987 election, winning the Ashburton electorate (later renamed Rakaia). When the National Party returned to power in 1990, she was appointed to Cabinet under Jim Bolger. Shipley subsequently served as Minister of Social Welfare (1990–1996), Minister for Women's Affairs (1990–1996), Minister of Health (1993–1996), and Minister of Transport (1996–1997).

Gore, New Zealand Town and district in Southland, New Zealand

Gore is a town and district in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand.

Southland, New Zealand Region of New Zealand in South Island

Southland is New Zealand's southernmost region. It consists mainly of the southwestern portion of the South Island and Stewart Island / Rakiura. It includes Southland District, Gore District and the city of Invercargill. The region covers over 3.1 million hectares and spans over 3,400 km of coast.

Canterbury, New Zealand Region of New Zealand in South Island

Canterbury is a region of New Zealand, located in the central-eastern South Island. The region covers an area of 44,508 square kilometres (17,185 sq mi), and is home to a population of 624,000.

In December 1997, Bolger resigned as Prime Minister after losing the confidence of his party. Shipley was elected as his replacement unopposed, becoming New Zealand's first female head of government. She inherited an uneasy coalition with New Zealand First, led by Winston Peters. The coalition was dissolved in August 1998, but Shipley was able to remain in power with the aid of Mauri Pacific, an NZ First splinter group. At the 1999 election, Shipley's government was defeated by the Labour Party, led by Helen Clark. She continued on as Leader of the Opposition until October 2001. Shipley has involved herself with business and charitable interests since leaving politics, and is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders.

The Fourth National Government of New Zealand was the government of New Zealand from 2 November 1990 to 27 November 1999. Following electoral reforms in the 1996 election, Jim Bolger formed a coalition with New Zealand First. Following Bolger's resignation, the government was led by Jenny Shipley, the country's first female Prime Minister, for the final two years.

New Zealand First, commonly abbreviated to NZ First, is a nationalist and populist political party in New Zealand. It was founded in July 1993, following the resignation on 19 March 1993 of its leader and founder, Winston Peters, from the then-governing National Party. It has formed governments with both major parties in New Zealand, first with the National Party from 1996 to 1998 and then with the Labour Party from 2005 to 2008 and from 2017 to present.

Winston Peters New Zealand politician

Winston Raymond Peters is a New Zealand politician who has served since 2017 as the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was previously Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998. Peters has led the populist New Zealand First party since its foundation in 1993. He has been a Member of Parliament since 2011, having previously served from 1979 to 1981 and 1984 to 2008.

Early life

Born in Gore, New Zealand, Shipley was one of four sisters. [3] After attending Marlborough Girls' College, she qualified in 1971 as a teacher through the Christchurch College of Education and taught in New Zealand primary schools until 1976. In 1973 she married Burton Shipley and settled in Ashburton. [3]

Marlborough Girls' College is a state single-sex secondary school in Blenheim, New Zealand. The school was established in 1963 after splitting from Marlborough College. Serving Years 9 to 13, the college has 961 students as of March 2019.

Christchurch College of Education was an educational institute based in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was founded in 1877, and ceased operation in 2007 when it was merged with the University of Canterbury.

Ashburton, New Zealand Secondary urban area in Canterbury, New Zealand

Ashburton is a large town in the Canterbury Region, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The town is the seat of the Ashburton District, a territorial authority encompassing the town and a number of small settlements within its surrounding rural area, roughly coterminous with the subregion of Mid Canterbury. It is 85 kilometres (53 mi) south west of Christchurch and is sometimes regarded as a satellite town of Christchurch.

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
1987 1990 42nd Ashburton National
1990 1993 43rd Ashburton National
1993 1996 44th Rakaia National
1996 1999 45th Rakaia4 National
1999 2002 46th Rakaia1 National

Having joined the National Party in 1975, Shipley successfully stood in Ashburton, a safe National seat in the country areas surrounding Christchurch, in the 1987 election. Entering parliament at age 35, she was one of parliament's youngest members. [3]

Ashburton was a New Zealand electorate, first created in 1881 and centred on the South Island town of Ashburton.

1987 New Zealand general election

The 1987 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 42nd sitting of the New Zealand Parliament. The governing New Zealand Labour Party, led by Prime Minister David Lange, was re-elected for a second term, although the Opposition National Party made gains. The election also saw the elimination of the Democratic Party from Parliament, leaving Labour and National as the only parties represented.

Cabinet Minister

Shipley rose quickly in the National caucus. While still in her first term, party leader Jim Bolger named her the party's spokeswoman on social welfare. When Bolger led the National Party to victory in the 1990 general election, Shipley was reelected in Rakaia, essentially a reconfigured Ashburton. She became Minister of Social Welfare, and also served as Minister for Women's Affairs (1990–1996). [4]

Jim Bolger Prime Minister of New Zealand, politician

James Brendan Bolger is a New Zealand politician of the National Party who was the 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving from 1990 to 1997.

1990 New Zealand general election

The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office. The National Party, led by Jim Bolger, won a landslide victory and formed the new government.

Rakaia was a New Zealand parliamentary electorate in the Canterbury region from 1972 to 1978 and 1993 to 2008.

In her role as Minister of Social Welfare, Shipley presided over sharp cutbacks to state benefits. Later, when she became Minister of Health in 1993, she caused further controversy by attempting to reform the public health service, introducing an internal market. National won another term at the 1996 election, but was forced into a coalition with New Zealand First. Shipley left the Women's Affairs portfolio and took on several others, including responsibility for state-owned enterprises and transport.[ citation needed ]

In 1993, Shipley was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal. [5]

Prime Minister

Shipley and US President Bill Clinton join in a toast during a gala at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch, 15 September 1999 Bill Clinton Jenny Shipley toast.jpg
Shipley and US President Bill Clinton join in a toast during a gala at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum in Christchurch, 15 September 1999

Shipley grew increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the cautious pace of National's leader, Jim Bolger, and with what she saw as the disproportionate influence of New Zealand First. She began gathering support to replace Bolger in mid-1997. Later that year, while Bolger attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Shipley convinced a majority of her National Party colleagues to back her bid for the leadership. Bolger returned to New Zealand and discovered that he no longer had the support of his party. Rather than face being voted out, he resigned, and Shipley replaced him. As leader of the governing party, she became Prime Minister on 8 December 1997. On 21 May 1998 Shipley was appointed to the Privy Council and became The Right Honourable Jenny Shipley. [6]

Despite continued economic growth, the Shipley government became increasingly politically unstable. In particular, the relationship between National and New Zealand First deteriorated. While Bolger had been able to maintain good relations with New Zealand First and with its leader, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, the alliance became strained after Shipley rose to power. Finally, on 14 August 1998, Shipley sacked Peters from Cabinet. [7] [8]

Shipley was nicknamed "the perfumed steamroller," when she first became prime minister. [9] During a later interview with Guyon Espiner, Shipley stated that female politicians were labelled differently in the media; she uses the example that male politicians are called bold where female politicians are called vindictive; although she notes that this is an observation, not something that hurts her personally. [10]

Shipley, along with the New Zealand Tourism Board, backed the quasi-national emblem of the silver fern on a black background as a possible alternative flag, [11] [12] along the lines of the Canadian flag, but she took pains to publicly disassociate herself from Bolger's support for republicanism. As the debate continued in 1999, the Princess Royal visited New Zealand, and Shipley stated, "I am an unashamed royal supporter, along with many New Zealanders". [13] However, the debate was muted by the controversy surrounding Tourism Board contracts going to the public-relations firm Saatchi & Saatchi, whose World CEO Kevin Roberts, also an advocate of the silver fern flag, was a good friend of Shipley. [14]

The APEC Summit was hosted in Auckland in September 1999. Shipley met with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, in one of only two state visits to New Zealand by a US President. [15]

Shipley was the first Prime Minister to attend the gay and lesbian Hero Parade, [16] being the first National Party leader to seek to make electoral overtures to the gay and lesbian voting public. She advocated lowering the alcohol purchase age from 20 to 18 and achieved this in 1999. [8] This was part of her expressed desire to expand the traditional National Party voting base.

Shipley became a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers. [17]

Defeat and resignation

Shipley led the National Party into the 1999 election, hoping to become the first woman to be elected prime minister in her own right. However, she was defeated by the Labour Party, also led by a woman, Helen Clark. This election was a significant moment in history for New Zealand as it was the first (and to date, only) New Zealand election in which the leaders of both major parties were women. [18]

Shipley served as the Leader of the Opposition until October 2001, when Bill English took over as National Party leader. [19] She retired from Parliament in January 2002. [20]

In the 2003 New Year Honours, Shipley was appointed a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services as a Member of Parliament. [21]


Shipley suffered a heart attack in 2000, leading to an emergency angioplasty procedure. [22] She made modifications to her lifestyle and lost weight, though she was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004. She underwent gastric bypass surgery in late 2007. [17]

Life after politics

Since leaving politics, Shipley has involved herself with various business and charitable interests. In 2007, she joined the financial services firm Source Sentinel, and in 2009, she was appointed chair of the Genesis Energy Limited board. [23] As of 2012, she was on the board of the New Zealand branch of the state-owned China Construction Bank. [24] [25] In December 2012, Shipley resigned from the board of directors of Mainzeal Property & Construction (MPCL), which went into receivership on 6 February 2013. At mid-day on 5 February 2013 she was one of four independent directors who resigned from the board of Mainzeal Group Ltd. [26] MPCL and Mainzeal Group Limited are part of the Richina group, controlled and majority owned by Yan Ci Lang (also known as Richard Yan). [27] [28] [29] [30] Mainzeal went into liquidation on 28 February 2013, owing some NZ$110 million. In May 2015, the receiver of Mainzeal, BDO, filed a civil lawsuit against the former Mainzeal directors, including Shipley, for an alleged breach of directors' duties. [31] In February 2019, the High Court of New Zealand found that the Mainzeal directors had breached their duty to avoid reckless trading and assessed their total liability at NZ$36 million, of which Shipley's share was assessed at NZ$6 million. [32] An appeal against this judgment is likely to be filed.

Shipley accepted redesignation as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit on 14 August 2009, following the reintroduction of titular honours by the Fifth National Government. [33] Also in 2009, Shipley appeared on an episode of the television reality/travel show Intrepid Journeys , where she visited Namibia. [34] She later started a charity to help a school she came across on that trip called the Namibian Educational Trust. [35] Shipley chairs Global Women NZ, and is Patron of the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre and the New Zealand National Heart Foundation's campaign "Go Red for Women". [17]

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  1. "Jenny Shipley". New Zealand history online. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 27 October 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  2. Skard, Torild (2014) "Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark" in Women of Power – Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Bristol: Policy Press, ISBN   978-1-44731-578-0
  3. 1 2 3 Wolfe, Richard. Battlers Bluffers & Bully Boys. Random House New Zealand. ISBN   1-86941-715-1.
  4. "Minister of Women's Affairs". Ministry of Women's Affairs. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  5. "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  6. Appointments to the Privy Council (28 May 1998) 74 New Zealand 1613 at 1644.
  7. Barber, David (15 August 1998). "Shipley sacks rebel minister". The Independent. Wellington. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  8. 1 2 Thompson, Alasdair (2013). Life Changing: Learning from the past; fixing the future. Xlibris Corporation. p. 333. ISBN   9781483668437.[ self-published source ]
  9. Denny, Charlotte. "Prepare to meet the perfumed steamroller." Guardian, 24 Nov. 1997, p. T4+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 15 May 2018.
  10. "'Look at the language: men are bold, women are vindictive' – ex-PM Jenny Shipley on depictions of politicians (WATCH)". 28 April 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  11. "Calls for a new flag". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  12. Blundell, Sally (12 March 2014). "A symbol solution". Noted. The Listener. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  13. "Princess Royal's Unfailing Efforts Praised By Pm" (Press release). Government of New Zealand. 17 March 1999. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  14. "Standfornz – when social media goes bad « The Standard". Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  15. "State visit of the United States President" (Press release). Government of New Zealand. 27 August 1999. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  16. "Pride and Progress: The Past and the Future of Auckland's Pride Parade – Tearaway". Tearaway. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  17. 1 2 3 McLeod, Rosemary (22 October 2011). "Jenny Shipley: 'Leadership is a life sentence'". The Dominion Post . Stuff. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  18. Vowles, Jack (2013). "Gender and Leadership". Proportional Representation on Trial: The 1999 New Zealand General Election and the Fate of MMP?. Auckland: Auckland University Press. ISBN   9781869407155.
  19. Small, Vernon; Armstrong, John; Mold, Fran (9 October 2001). "Shipley out, English next in line". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  20. "Jenny Shipley Announces Retirement". Scoop News. 31 January 2002. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  21. "New Year honours list 2003". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2002. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  22. Fraser, Fiona (8 September 2009). "Jenny's change of heart". New Zealand Woman's Weekly . Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  23. "Shipley, Withers take senior SOE roles". New Zealand Herald. 20 October 2009.
  24. "Board of Directors – China Construction Bank" . Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  25. Meadows, Richard (11 May 2015). "Shipley v Brash: Who earns more Chinese bank cash?". Stuff. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  26. "Mainzeal in receivership; Jenny Shipley and Paul Collins resign from the board". Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  27. "Failed Mainzeal faces $93.5m in claims". 16 March 2013.
  28. "Mainzeal collapse hits subcontractors". Dominion Post. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  29. "Richina accused of polluting Shanghai". Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  30. "Meet Mainzeal's man at the top, the enigmatic migrant made good – until now". New Zealand Herald. 9 February 2013.
  31. Harris, Catherine (30 May 2015). "Jenny Shipley among Mainzeal directors facing legal action". p. C24. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  33. "Prime Minister congratulates knights and dames". Television New Zealand . 1 August 2009. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009.
  34. "Jenny Shipley: Namibia". Intrepid Journeys . Television New Zealand . Retrieved 26 June 2009.
  35. "The lights are on at Ehomba School in Africa!". Namibian Educational Trust. Retrieved 26 June 2009.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Rob Talbot
Member of Parliament
for Ashburton

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Rakaia

Succeeded by
Brian Connell
Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Shields
Minister of Women's Affairs
Succeeded by
Christine Fletcher
Preceded by
Bill Birch
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Bill English
Preceded by
Jim Bolger
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Helen Clark
Preceded by
Helen Clark
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
Bill English
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jim Bolger
Leader of the National Party
Succeeded by
Bill English
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Mahathir Mohamad
Chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Succeeded by
Hassanal Bolkiah