List of political scandals in New Zealand

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The following is a list of governmental and public sector scandals in New Zealand. While New Zealand generally scores very well on international indices of corruption, there have been several notable high-profile scandals including cases of cover-ups relating to politics, economics, or public sector debacles, or to the private lives of individual government representatives.

List of scandals[edit]


  • 1892 – Mayor of Wellington Arthur Winton Brown absconds to Australia to escape the consequences of the possible collapse of his businesses.
  • 1898 – Liberal Party MP William Larnach commits suicide in a parliament committee room, the result of impending financial disasters and (reputedly) rumours over a sexual relationship between his wife and her step-son.[1]
  • 1899 – The "Marine Scandal". John Hutcheson fellow MP Frederick Pirani accused Prime Minister Richard Seddon and Minister of Marine William Hall-Jones of using ministerial influence in order to obtain Mariners certificates for unqualified candidates, which was in contravention to the recent Shipping and Seamen's Act. However, the Marine Commission report declared that the charges were unfounded. Hutcheson resigned his seat in order to exonerate himself triggering a by-election, which he won.[2] [3][4]


A cartoon depicting the "Voucher incident" showing New Liberal moderates distancing themselves from Fisher.
  • 1905 – Francis Fisher, a ringleader of the New Liberal Party caused much controversy in the so-called "voucher incident",[5] in which he alleged that Richard Seddon's son had been received payment from a government department for work he had not done. The allegations were subsequently disproven, and the New Liberals suffered considerable public backlash.




  • 1941 – The 'Nathan Incident': a scandal developed revolving around Hubert Nathan, a Citizens' Association candidate for the Wellington Harbour Board who was critical of the number of union secretaries on the Labour ticket for the 1941 civic elections. Nathan alleged that 5 unionists used "Gestapo tactics" to try and blackmail him into withdrawing his nomination and accusing them of Antisemitism. The press ran articles on the alleged confrontation (which was refuted by Labour) and as a result no Labour candidates were elected to any of the three local authorities in Wellington until 1950.[8][9]
  • 1942 – Herbert Kyle resigned from the National Party at the climax of a personality feud with leader Sidney Holland. Kyle accused Holland of blackmailing him into becoming a "yes man" or be expelled from the party. Kyle remained an independent MP and retired at the 1943 election.


Sir Robert Muldoon was at the centre of several political controversies during his time as Prime Minister (1975–1984).
  • 1970 – An ugly, public leadership struggle between Vernon Cracknell and his deputy John O'Brien for leadership of the Social Credit Party ended in disaster. It cumulated with brawling between supporters of each candidate with considerable damage done to the party's image. O'Brien was the victor, but his blunt and confrontational style caused him to lose his position after only a short time in office. He then split from Social Credit, founding his own New Democratic Party.
  • 1976 – Fitzgerald v Muldoon: Prime Minister Robert Muldoon advised the Governor-General to abolish Labour's superannuation scheme without new legislation. In the case it was found that revoking a law in such a manner without consent of Parliament was illegal under the Bill of Rights 1689.[10]
  • 1976 – Labour MP Gerald O'Brien is charged with molesting two boys. Case thrown out.[11]
  • 1977 – The Moyle Affair: Muldoon accuses high-ranking Labour Party MP Colin Moyle of having been questioned by the police on suspicion of homosexual activities, at that time illegal in New Zealand. Moyle is forced to resign from parliament.
  • 1977 – Muldoon advised Queen Elizabeth II to appoint Sir Keith Holyoake as Governor-General upon Sir Denis Blundell's term ending. As the Governor-General is a non-partisan position this caused much controversy with Labour leader Bill Rowling criticizing the appointment as cronyism and complaining that he had not been consulted on the appointment, stating he would remove Holyoake should Labour win the 1978 general election.[12]


  • 1980 – Minister of Agriculture Duncan MacIntyre gave a Marginal Land Boards loan to his daughter and son-in-law. A public inquiry later concluded that MacIntyre had not acted willfully improperly, though there were several public resignations of National Party officeholders in MacIntyre's East Cape electorate.[13]
  • 1984 – Independent MP John Kirk, the son of former Prime Minister Norman Kirk, absconds, owing more than $280,000. He is arrested in the US, held in prison, and then extradited to New Zealand.[6]
  • 1984 – Following the 1984 general election a constitutional crisis occurred when Muldoon refused to act on instruction of the incoming government, causing a growing currency crisis to worsen. Eventually he relented, after his position as National Party leader was threatened by members of his caucus.[14] Prior to the snap election, Muldoon had announced its date to journalists while being very clearly drunk.[15][16]
  • 1984 – National Cabinet Minister Keith Allen passed away. Immediately prior to his death Muldoon had refused to accept Allen's resignation from cabinet. Allen found the burdens of holding the office combined with his worsening affliction of diabetes were making his life too stressful. Other National MPs such as Hugh Templeton and Don McKinnon think Muldoon's harsh treatment of Allen contributed significantly to his premature death.[17]
  • 1986 – The Māori loan affair: an unauthorised attempt by Te Puni Kōkiri (the government's Māori Affairs Department) to raise money overseas for Māori development.


Populist New Zealand First MP Winston Peters was responsible for the release to parliament of the papers which led to the Winebox Inquiry.
Investigative journalist Nicky Hager, whose books — most notably The Hollow Men and Dirty Politics — have explored several political scandals since the 1990s.
  • 1994 – The Winebox Inquiry investigates alleged corruption and incompetence in both the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue Department. The inquiry is instigated after revelations by New Zealand First MP Winston Peters, and named after his habit of keeping the allegation documents in a winebox.
  • 1995–96 – The "Antoinette Beck" affair: National/New Zealand First MP Michael Laws resigns after being subject to a conflict of interest inquiry over employing a company partly owned by his wife to conduct a poll, signed off by a non-existent "Antoinette Beck".[18]
  • 1996 – Governor General Sir Michael Hardie Boys caused much controversy over openly stating his opposition to Minister of Youth Affairs Deborah Morris's suggestion that young people have access to contraceptives.[19]
  • 1999 – INCIS: The Integrated National Crime Information System, a computer network intended to be used in coordination of police resources, reported to have massive cost over-runs and operational problems.
  • 1999 – New Zealand First MP Tuariki John Delamere is forced to resign as Minister of Immigration after it emerged that he had approved permanent residency for a group of Chinese businessmen provided they invested generously in various Māori development schemes.



ACT Party leader John Banks was in the headlines for the wrong reasons in both 2011 and 2014.
  • 2010 –
  • 2011 – Tea tape scandal: A meeting between Prime Minister John Key and ACT Party leader John Banks is recorded by a news journalist. The freedom of the press and the privacy of ostensibly public discussions (the meeting took place in a public area are widely debated in a case which involves both police and lawyers.[31]
  • 2013 – Major problems with payroll system Novopay, used primarily by the New Zealand Department of Education to pay teachers' salaries, causes many teachers to be underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all for several months. Several other government departments are also affected. It is revealed that the system was approved by the government despite serious technical design flaws revealed during its testing period.[32]
  • 2014 –
    • June: ACT Party leader John Banks is convicted of filing a false electoral return in 2010, recording donations known to come from Kim Dotcom as anonymous. The conviction is overturned on appeal in 2015.[33]
    • August: National Party cabinet minister Judith Collins is forced to resign her portfolios after being involved in a string of scandals. Early in the year she is accused of a conflict of interest after an overseas trip where she appeared to be promoting milk products produced by Oravida – a New Zealand company of which her husband is a director. Later in the year, claims emerge in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics that Collins had passed on private information about public servants to right-wing attack-blogger Cameron Slater. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also claims in the same month that Collins had approached him to do a post-2014 election deal with National with Collins as leader.[34]
    • September: The National Party used a song similar to a hit by US rapper Eminem in a campaign ad during that year's election. The song's publishers filed a lawsuit against National for copyright violation stating they did not give consent for the song to be used in a political ad, a claim which National denies.[35]
  • 2015 –
    • January: National Party MP Mike Sabin resigns from parliament "due to personal issues that were best dealt with outside Parliament"[36] one month after it is revealed that he is under investigation by police for assault.[37]
    • May: National cabinet minister Murray McCully is involved in the controversial setting up of a sheep farm in Saudi Arabia in partnership with Saudi businessman Hamood Al-Ali Al-Khalaf, seemingly to negate the risk of Al-Khalaf suing the New Zealand government.[38][39]
    • September: Conservative Party leader Colin Craig resigns as party leader amid allegations of sexual harassment of his former secretary. In the messy leadership dispute which follows, Craig is suspended by the party.[40]
  • 2016 –
    • September: Colin Craig (see above) cited in court during defamation case taken against him relating to sexual harassment allegations.[41]
  • 2017 –
    • June: National MP Todd Barclay is accused of making a clandestine recording of Glenys Dickson, one of his staff, and offering her a hush payment from former Prime Minister John Key's leader's budget.[42] Upon the incident becoming public, Barclay chose to retire from Parliament.[43]
    • July: Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei reveals that she had at one time committed benefit fraud during the 1990s.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sinclair, F. R. J. "Larnach, William James Mudie 1833–1898". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  2. ^ McLintock, A. H., ed. (22 April 2009) [First published in 1966]. ""Marine Scandal", 1899". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  3. ^ "Shipping and Seamen's Act Amendment Act 1894 (58 VICT 1894 No 62)". Parliamentary Counsel Office. 1894. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  4. ^ "Marine Commission: Commission to Inquire into Certain Matters Relating to the Marine Department". National Library of New Zealand. 1899. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  5. ^ "The Fisher Incident again". Thames Star,2 Volume XLII, Issue 10682. 10 August 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Stickley, Tony (24 August 2005). "Awatere sent straight to jail over fraud charges". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  7. ^ Fraser, B. (ed.) (1986) The New Zealand Book of Events. Auckland: Reed Methuen. p. 259. ISBN 0-474-00123-7
  8. ^ Yska, Redmer (2006). Wellington: Biography of a City. Auckland: Reed. pp. 159, 160. ISBN 0-7900-1117-4.
  9. ^ Betts, G.M. (1970). Betts on Wellington: A City and its Politics. Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed Ltd. p. 135. ISBN 0 589 00469 7.
  10. ^ "The legitimacy of judicial review of executive decision-making". New Zealand Law Society. Archived from the original on 4 February 2010.
  11. ^ Romanos, Joseph (26 August 2010). "The Wellingtonian Interview: Gerald O'Brien". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  12. ^ McLean 2006, p. 300.
  13. ^ Gustafson 1986, pp. 142-3.
  14. ^ Audrey Young (28 August 2012). "McLay: My plan to replace Muldoon". The New Zealand Herald.
  15. ^ Muldoon's announcement of snap election on YouTube
  16. ^ Audrey Young (30 June 2000). "Tyre let down so drunk PM could not drive car". The New Zealand Herald.
  17. ^ Templeton, Hugh (1995). All Honourable Men: Inside the Muldoon Cabinet, 1975–1984. Auckland: Auckland University Press. pp. 215–6, 222. ISBN 186940128X.
  18. ^ "NZ First president dismisses Laws rumour", National Business Review, 28 July 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  19. ^ a b Gavin Mclean (October 2006), The Governors, New Zealand Governors and Governors-General, Otago University Press, p. 281
  20. ^ "Dover Samuels". New Zealand Government. 2000-06-28. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
  21. ^ Campbell Live video interview with Prime Minister Helen Clark on GE
  22. ^ "Charges against Graham Capill allege decade of abuse". New Zealand Herald. 11 June 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  23. ^ Dick, Tim (23 September 2006). "Sects, lies, displays of hate". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 October 2006.
  24. ^ "Hager book: Brash assisted to power by business lobby". New Zealand Herald. 24 November 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  25. ^ "Timeline in the Taito Phillip Field saga". The New Zealand Herald. 4 August 2009.
  26. ^ "Police drop case against former MP Worth - report". New Zealand Herald. 2 July 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2009.
  27. ^ Trevett, Claire (29 July 2009). "Minister accused of breaking privacy law". The New Zealand Herald.
  28. ^ "Kevin Clarke:Govt can't escape leaky homes blame". New Zealand Herald. 25 March 2010.
  29. ^ Gorman, Paul (30 March 2010). "ECan councillors sacked". The Press. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  30. ^ Anderson, J., and Baldwin,L., "Justice Bill Wilson quits", National Business Review, 21 October 2010.
  31. ^ John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance (15 November 2011). "Time for Key to be frank about tape: Goff".
  32. ^ "Ministers' knowledge of Novopay problems revealed". 3 News. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  33. ^ "Case against John Banks thrown out". The New Zealand Herald. 19 May 2015.
  34. ^ "Resignation reaction: 'Too little, too late'". The New Zealand Herald. 30 August 2014.
  35. ^ "Court date set for Eminem vs New Zealand National Party". Yahoo News. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  36. ^ "Mike Sabin announces resignation as Northland MP". Scoop. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  37. ^ "Police tight-lipped about assault allegation". Radio New Zealand. 21 December 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  38. ^ Edwards, Bryce "Political roundup: The bizarre 'bribery' and flying sheep scandal", New Zealand Herald, 28 May 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  39. ^ Gulliver, A. "Auditor General to investigate Saudi sheep controversy",, 18 August 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  40. ^ "Colin Craig files defamation suit". Radio New Zealand News. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  41. ^ "Colin Craig called manipulative during defamation case against him". Stuff (Fairfax Media). 6 September 2016.
  42. ^ "Government gives secret payment to MP Todd Barclay's former employee over clandestine recording". 20 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  43. ^ "Barclay steps down as candidate for 2017 election". 21 June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  44. ^ [1]