East Coast Bays by-election, 1980

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East Coast Bays by-election, 1980
New Zealand
← 1978 general 6 September 1980 1981 general →
Turnout 18,611
  No image.png Don Brash, 1977.jpg No image.png
Candidate Gary Knapp Don Brash Wyn Hoadley
Party Social Credit National Labour
Popular vote 8,061 7,110 3,296
Percentage 43.31 38.20 17.71

Member before election

Frank Gill

Elected Member

Gary Knapp
Social Credit

The East Coast Bays by-election of 1980 was a by-election during the 39th New Zealand Parliament in the East Coast Bays electorate. It resulted in an upset for the National Party, as their candidate and future leader Don Brash was unexpectedly beaten by Gary Knapp of the Social Credit Party.


The Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, appointed Frank Gill, National Party MP for East Coast Bays since the 1972 election, to take up a position as New Zealand's ambassador to the United States. Muldoon did so against the express wish of Brian Talboys, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs.[1] Shortly before the election, Muldoon raised the tolls on the Auckland Harbour Bridge from 20 cents to 25 cents, which was a very unpopular move.[2] Muldoon was also embroiled in a public spat with various journalists, most notably cartoonist Tom Scott. But most damaging was Muldoon's lack of enthusiasm for National's candidate for the by-election, Don Brash; Muldoon had favoured the party's vice-president Sue Wood.[3]


Social Credit's popularity reached its zenith around the time of the East Coast Bays by-election.

Voting resulted in the election of Knapp, the candidate of the Social Credit Party.[4] That was unexpected, as minor parties rarely won seats in Parliament at the time, but such voting was more likely in a by-election. Muldoon blamed Brash and the party organisation for the defeat but was strongly rebuked by the party for the stance.[3] The loss of the by-election provided the catalyst for growing opposition within the National Party to Muldoon's leadership.[5]

The following table gives the election results:

East Coast Bays by-election, 1980
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Social Credit Gary Knapp 8,061 43.31
National Don Brash 7,110 38.20
Labour Wyn Hoadley 3,296 17.71
Values J S Moore 144 0.77
Majority 951 5.11
Turnout 18,611
Social Credit gain from National Swing

Knapp held the electorate until the 1987 general election, when he was defeated by National's Murray McCully.


  1. ^ Gustafson 1986, pp. 136–137.
  2. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (5 July 2011). "$6 toll to cross Auckland Harbour Bridge". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Gustafson 1986, p. 137.
  4. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 211.
  5. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 138.


  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6. 
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.