Liberalism in New Zealand

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This article gives an overview of liberalism in New Zealand. It is limited to liberal parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. For inclusion in this scheme it isn't necessary so that parties labelled themselves as a liberal party.


In New Zealand, the term "liberalism" has been used by a large variety of groups and organisations, but usually refers to a support for individual liberties and limited government. The term is generally used only with a reference to a particular policy area, e.g. "market liberalism" or "social liberalism". Unqualified liberalism is less common; in its extreme form it can be known as "libertarianism", although this term is used less in New Zealand than in some other countries. Some historians claim that liberalism was a dominant force in New Zealand until around 1936, citing the strong position of the Liberal Party. However, there is (and always was) debate as to whether the Liberal Party was actually liberal — according to some observers, it would be better described as "socialist", although this was a common accusation made against early 20th century liberals, around the world.

Today, there is no party which is universally recognised as "the party of liberalism", although there are parties which attempt to claim this title — ACT New Zealand, for example, officially labels itself "the Liberal Party"[citation needed].


Liberal Party / United Party[edit]

Democrat Party[edit]

  • 1934: Prominent "anti-socialist" political organiser Albert Davy founds the Democrat Party, with a strong focus on economic liberalism.
  • 1935: The Democrats capture eight percent of the vote, but no seats.

New Zealand Party[edit]

  • 1983: Bob Jones, a wealthy property tycoon, founds the New Zealand Party to promote both economic and social liberalism. Some consider the party to be mildly libertarian.
  • 1984: The New Zealand Party captures twelve percent of the vote, but no seats.

Liberal leaders[edit]

See also[edit]