Bill Rowling

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The Right Honourable
Sir Wallace Rowling
KCMG
Bill Rowling Shannon School.jpg
30th Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
6 September 1974 – 12 December 1975
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Denis Blundell
Deputy Hugh Watt (1974)
Bob Tizard (1974–1975)
Preceded by Hugh Watt (Acting after the death of Norman Kirk)
Succeeded by Robert Muldoon
33rd Minister of Finance
In office
8 December 1972 – 6 September 1974
Prime Minister Norman Kirk
Preceded by Robert Muldoon
Succeeded by Bob Tizard
22nd Leader of the Opposition
In office
12 December 1975 – 3 February 1983
Preceded by Robert Muldoon
Succeeded by David Lange
7th Leader of the Labour Party
In office
6 September 1974 – 3 February 1983
Deputy Hugh Watt
Bob Tizard
Preceded by Norman Kirk
Succeeded by David Lange
President of the Labour Party
In office
1969–1972
Preceded by Norman Kirk
Succeeded by Arthur Faulkner
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Buller
In office
1962–1972
Preceded by Jerry Skinner
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Tasman
In office
1972–1984
Succeeded by Ken Shirley
Personal details
Born (1927-11-15)15 November 1927
Motueka, Tasman District, New Zealand
Died 31 October 1995(1995-10-31) (aged 67)
Nelson, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Glen Elna Reeves in 1951
Children 5
Religion Anglican[1]

Sir Wallace Edward Rowling, KCMG PC (15 November 1927 – 31 October 1995), often known as Bill Rowling, was the 30th Prime Minister of New Zealand. He was in office for just over a year, having been appointed Prime Minister following the death of the highly popular Norman Kirk. Rowling was unable to retain the premiership but remained leader of the Labour Party until 1983.

Early life[edit]

Rowling was born in a country suburb of Mariri neighbouring the town of Motueka, near Nelson. He was a member of a long-established farming family. He was educated at Nelson College and the University of Canterbury, gaining a degree in economics. He also attended the Christchurch College of Education (currently, University of Canterbury), qualifying as a teacher. After completing his education, Rowling taught at several schools around the country, including at Motueka, Christchurch, Waverley and in Northland. In 1958, Rowling left teaching and joined the New Zealand Army, becoming Assistant Director of Army Education. He spent a short amount of time serving abroad in Malaysia and Singapore, a deployment connected with the "Malayan Emergency".

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1962–1963 33rd Buller Labour
1963–1966 34th Buller Labour
1966–1969 35th Buller Labour
1969–1972 36th Buller Labour
1972–1975 37th Tasman Labour
1975–1978 38th Tasman Labour
1978–1981 39th Tasman Labour
1981–1984 40th Tasman Labour

In the 1960 election, Rowling was selected as the Labour Party's candidate for the Fendalton electorate in Christchurch. Fendalton was regarded as a safe National seat, and Rowling was defeated by the National Party's Harry Lake (who was appointed Minister of Finance in the new National government). Two years later, however, Rowling successfully contested the by-election for Buller, which had been caused by the death of prominent Labour MP Jerry Skinner. Rowling was to hold this seat until the election of 1972, when the seat was dissolved – Rowling then contested successfully the new seat of Tasman, which intriguingly he did travelling up and down the electorate by Commer campervan, which he lived in for the time.

When the Labour Party won power under Norman Kirk in the 1972 election, Rowling was appointed Minister of Finance. This could be seen as a considerable promotion for someone without prior ministerial experience. Rowling's term as Minister of Finance was somewhat turbulent, with a number of formidable economic challenges arising during his tenure.

Prime Minister[edit]

When Norman Kirk died unexpectedly in 1974, Rowling as the front-runner to replace him. Kirk's deputy, Hugh Watt, served as Acting Prime Minister for several days while the Labour Party made its decision. Rowling was officially confirmed as party leader and 30th Prime Minister on 6 September 1974[2] taking the role of Minister of Finance[3] and was later appointed to the Privy Council.[4]

Unlike the pro-life Kirk and Muldoon, Rowling was pro-choice.[citation needed]

As leader, Rowling was attacked by the opposition led by Robert Muldoon, and was generally characterised as being weak. His supporters denied this, saying he chose not to participate in the confrontational and aggressive politics that Muldoon favoured.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

The 1975 election was a major defeat for the Labour Party. Labour also campaigned with the famous Citizens for Rowling – prominent New Zealanders who backed Rowling. The campaign was labelled as being elitist, and was generally regarded as having backfired on Rowling.[5]

During the late 1970s, Rowling alienated Maori by removing Matiu Rata, the party's effective and well-regarded Maori Affairs spokesman, from the Opposition front bench. Earlier, Rowling had replaced Rata with himself as convenor of Labour's Maori Affairs Committee. Mat Rata complained about the insensitivity of Labour's Maori policy[5] and went onto form his own party, Mana Moutahake, a precursor to the Maori Party.

His approach to the Moyle and O'Brien 'affairs' was regarded as heavy-handed and unnecessary in many circles. In regards to the 'Moyle affair', "it was Rowling that insisted that his close friend, Colin Moyle, must resign".[5] Large numbers protested at the 1977 Labour Party Conference; many in the LGBT community never forgave him (see Henderson, p. 167 for more on Gerald O'Brien and the O'Brien 'affair').

Rowling, however, managed to retain the party leadership, and gradually managed to improve public perceptions of him. In the 1978 election and the 1981 election, Labour actually secured more votes than the National Party but failed to gain a majority of seats.

While Rowling had largely managed to undo his negative image, many people in the Labour Party nevertheless believed that it was time for a change. In 1983 Rowling was replaced as leader by the charismatic David Lange, who went on to defeat Muldoon in the 1984 election. Rowling retired from parliament at the same election.

Later life[edit]

After leaving politics, Rowling was appointed Ambassador to the United States, serving from 1985 to 1988. He held that position when the issue of nuclear weapons and ANZUS flared up between the United States and New Zealand. Later, after returning to New Zealand, Rowling became highly involved in a number of community organizations and trusts. He also played a prominent role at the Museum of New Zealand, and is considered to have been the "driving force" behind the eventual establishment of Te Papa. Honours that Rowling received include being made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, an honorary law doctorate, and being made a Commander in the Orde van Oranje – Nassau (Netherlands).

Rowling died of cancer in Nelson on 31 October 1995.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Henderson, John. "Rowling, Wallace Edward - Early life". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Prime Minister Appointed" (6 September 1974) 87 The New Zealand Gazette 1899.
  3. ^ "Ministers Appointed" (10 September 1974) 88 New Zealand Gazette 1901.
  4. ^ "Special Honours List" (26 September 1974) 93 New Zealand Gazette 2047.
  5. ^ a b c Rowling: The man and the myth by John Henderson, Australia New Zealand Press, 1980.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Jerry Skinner
Member of Parliament for Buller
1962–1972
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Tasman
1972–1984
Succeeded by
Ken Shirley
Political offices
Preceded by
Norman Kirk
Prime Minister of New Zealand
1974–1975
Succeeded by
Robert Muldoon
Preceded by
Robert Muldoon
Minister of Finance
1972–1974
Succeeded by
Bob Tizard
Leader of the Opposition
1975–1982
Succeeded by
David Lange
Party political offices
Preceded by
Norman Kirk
President of the Labour Party
1969–1972
Succeeded by
Arthur Faulkner
Leader of the Labour Party
1974–1983
Succeeded by
David Lange