Maurice Williamson

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Maurice Williamson
Maurice Williamson at the NZ Open Source Awards, 2007
Howick Ward councillor
Assumed office
28 October 2022
Serving with Sharon Stewart
Preceded byPaul Young
60th Minister of Customs
In office
19 November 2008 – 1 May 2014
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byNanaia Mahuta
Succeeded byNicky Wagner
5th Minister for Building and Construction
In office
19 November 2008 – 1 May 2014
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byShane Jones
Succeeded byNick Smith
19th Minister of Statistics
In office
19 November 2008 – 1 May 2014
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byDarren Hughes
Succeeded byNicky Wagner
In office
1 July 1993 – 10 December 1999
Prime MinisterJim Bolger
Jenny Shipley
Preceded byRob Storey
Succeeded byPaul Swain
Minister for Small Business
In office
19 November 2008 – 12 December 2011
Prime MinisterJohn Key
Preceded byClayton Cosgrove
Succeeded byJohn Banks
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Pakuranga
In office
15 August 1987 – 23 September 2017
Preceded byNeil Morrison
Succeeded bySimeon Brown
Personal details
Born (1951-03-06) 6 March 1951 (age 72)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyNational
Alma materUniversity of Auckland
ProfessionComputer programmer

Maurice Donald Williamson (born 6 March 1951) is a New Zealand politician and former diplomat.

Williamson had a 30-year career as the National Party Member of Parliament for Pakuranga in the New Zealand House of Representatives. During this period, he was a minister in both the Fourth and Fifth National Governments, including as Minister of Transport, Minister of Broadcasting, Minister of Local Government, Minister of Customs and Minister of Statistics.

After retiring from Parliament, Williamson was New Zealand consul-general in Los Angeles from 2017 to 2021.[1] He returned to politics in 2022, successfully contesting the Howick ward of Auckland Council.

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1987–1990 42nd Pakuranga National
1990–1993 43rd Pakuranga National
1993–1996 44th Pakuranga National
1996–1999 45th Pakuranga 20 National
1999–2002 46th Pakuranga 13 National
2002–2005 47th Pakuranga none National
2005–2008 48th Pakuranga 17 National
2008–2011 49th Pakuranga 8 National
2011–2014 50th Pakuranga 19 National
2014–2017 51st Pakuranga 35 National

Williamson was a member of Parliament for the National Party, a centre-right political Party in New Zealand, as MP for Pakuranga since the 1987 general election. He held a number of ministerial posts, including Minister of Communications, Minister of Broadcasting, Minister of Transport, and Minister of Research, Science and Technology, and associate Minister of Health (1990–96). He was a strong supporter of reform of prostitution law.

His 2005 election campaign saw one of the strongest results for National across New Zealand.


He was suspended from caucus on 22 July 2003, after refusing to curtail his criticism of the National Party leader, Bill English, who he blamed for poor performance in the polls.[2] After English was replaced by Don Brash, Williamson was reinstated. After his return from suspension, Williamson played an active role in National and was elevated up the ranks to eighth position in the National lineup in 2008.

On 1 May 2014, he resigned his ministerial portfolios after making what the Prime Minister, John Key, called, "A serious error of judgement." The Prime Minister was referring to a phone call Mr Williamson had made to the police enquiring about a charge they were laying against businessman and National Party donor Donghua Liu over domestic violence allegations. Williamson had told police he was not trying to interfere with the process – he just wanted to make sure somebody had reviewed the matter to ensure the police were on solid ground as "Mr Liu is investing a lot of money in New Zealand".[3]

Candid remarks[edit]

Williamson became known for his candid remarks and humor which often attracted controversy.[4] In 2011, he attracted controversy for making crude jokes during a speech addressing a conference audience. Speaking to a Samoan speaker, he joked about whether his "papers were in order". Later he said: "What is the difference between Muslims and Kiwis? Muslims get to commit adultery and get stoned, Kiwis get stoned and commit adultery".[5] In 2015, Prime Minister John Key defended him as a "flamboyant" person with a "strong sense of humour" after Williamson was accused of making "sexist" remarks during another speech. He later apologised.[6][7] Earlier in 2007, Williamson was slammed for an email he sent in response to a TV report on obesity: "If some people can't lose weight no matter what ... how come there were no fat people in the Nazi concentration camps?"[8]

49th and 50th New Zealand Parliaments[edit]

After the 2008 general election the National Party formed a minority government with three confidence and supply partners. Despite his high list placing, Williamson was not selected for cabinet due in part to a series of gaffes during the election campaign relating to the party's policy on road tolls.[9] He was given ministerial responsibilities outside of cabinet for Customs, Building and Construction, Statistics and Small Business. One of the major matters under his governance was the ongoing leaky homes crisis, which he noted as having the government "stumped" due to its enormity.[10]

In June 2009, Richard Worth left Parliament after Prime Minister John Key lost confidence in him as a minister over sexual allegations.[11][12] Williamson was made the acting minister of Worth's portfolios of Internal Affairs, National Library and Archives New Zealand which were subsequently passed on to Nathan Guy.

After the election of the 50th Parliament of New Zealand Williamson was returned to his seat and re-appointed as a minister in the second term of the National-led government. Williamson retained his 2008 portfolios of Customs, Land Information and Building and Construction but lost the role of Minister for Small Business to John Banks as part of the new National-ACT Confidence and Supply deal. Williamson remained a minister outside of Cabinet, along with Jo Goodhew, Chester Borrows and Chris Tremain, until his resignation from all ministerial portfolios on 1 May 2014.[13]

He announced that he would not stand for Parliament in the 2017 election.[14]

Transport advocacy[edit]

In 2003, Williamson suggested that "cities have squandered fortunes upgrading their public transport only to find the car remains the mode of choice for most" and said local government subsidies should be axed for roading maintenance and public transport.[15]

As a one-time Transport Minister and a local MP, Williamson has long supported and advocated for more motorway and roading projects. In 2005, he advocated for the Eastern Transport Corridor motorway to expand Auckland's motorway network, saying that the city was "grossly short" of motorways.[16] As the National Party's transport spokesperson in the 2008 general election, he prompted controversy for supporting significant road tolls to enable new motorway construction projects.[17]

In 2015, he advocated for two local roads in his Pakuranga electorate to be redesignated as state highways, as he felt Auckland Transport was prioritising public transport infrastructure too heavily in planning.[18]

'Big gay rainbow' speech[edit]

In April 2013, Williamson voted in favour of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill which legalised same-sex marriage, delivering a memorable speech prior to the third reading vote.[19]

One of the messages that I had was that this bill was the cause of our drought. Well, in the Pakuranga electorate this morning, it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate.

The speech was soon being referenced worldwide by news outlets and was chosen as 2013's quote of the year by Massey University.[19][20] With Williamson's sarcastic and honest approach, the speech was viewed hundreds of thousands of times over the next few days, and featured on high-profile news sites like The Huffington Post and Gawker. Williamson said he had an offer to go on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but had to turn it down due to rules around ministers accepting gifts. Williamson was later given approval by the prime minister to go on the show as long as he donated any money received to charity.[21][22] Williamson's speech was praised by Opposition politicians and left-wing media commentators.[23]

Later career and return to politics[edit]

Auckland Council
Years Ward Affiliation
2022–present Howick Independent

After he announced his intention to leave parliament at the 2017 election, Williamson was appointed the New Zealand consul-general in Los Angeles in 2016. He took up the post the following year.[24][25]

Williamson returned to the New Zealand political scene in 2022 by running for Auckland Council as one of the two councillors for the Howick Ward, which encompasses all of Williamson's former Pakuranga parliamentary electorate.[26] Williamson ran on a ticket with sitting councillor Sharon Stewart,[27] and in October 2022 Williamson and Stewart were both elected, defeating sitting Howick councillor Paul Young.[28]

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown appointed Williamson to the chair of the expenditure control and procurement committee, charged with identifying cost savings.[29] As a councillor, Williamson attracted criticism for his comments characterising posters promoting the use of te reo Māori as "objectionable" and for making comments "of a sexual nature" in relation to Wellington mayor Tory Whanau.[30][31]


  1. ^ "Ex-National MP Maurice Williamson seeks Auckland Council seat". RNZ. 26 July 2022. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  2. ^ "National caucus suspends Williamson". New Zealand Herald. 22 July 2003. Retrieved 20 October 2008.
  3. ^ Audrey Young: Williamson's 'significant error of judgment', NZ Herald 1 May 2014
  4. ^ Vance, Andrea (1 May 2014). "Maurice Williamson: A career of highs and lows". Stuff. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  5. ^ VANCE, ANDREA (7 September 2010). "Minister made Muslim jokes before his racism remarks". Stuff. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  6. ^ "Williamson turns to stand up comedy - about Muslims". NZ Herald. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  7. ^ Watkins, Tracy (3 September 2015). "Maurice Williamson wasn't acting in his capacity as an MP? Pull the other one". Stuff. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  8. ^ "No fat people in Nazi camps 'a blunder'". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 August 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  9. ^ "Williamson's political career on the skids after snub". The New Zealand Herald. 17 November 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  10. ^ Laxon, Andrew (27 February 2010). "Govt stumped as leaky home bill skyrockets". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  11. ^ "PM's Statement on Richard Worth's resignation | Scoop News". 3 June 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Statement by Dr Richard Worth | Scoop News". 12 June 2009. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  13. ^ Savage, Jared (1 May 2014). "Maurice Williamson resigns as a minister". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  14. ^ Jones, Nicholas (26 July 2016). "National and Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson to leave Parliament". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Maurice Williamson: Ludicrous for rates to pay for roading". NZ Herald. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Brian Rudman: Should we believe Brash over eastern highway?". NZ Herald. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Nats in damage control over toll road comments". Stuff. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  18. ^ HILL, BEN (9 September 2015). "East Auckland MPs lobby for state highways". Stuff. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  19. ^ a b "'Big gay rainbow' quote tops Kiwis' favourites". Otago Daily Times – 20 December 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  20. ^ Zealand, Massey University, New. "'Gay rainbow' speech wins Quote of the Year - Massey University". Retrieved 10 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "MP becomes unlikely gay icon". 3 News NZ. 19 April 2013. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  22. ^ "Williamson allowed to appear on Ellen". 3 News NZ. 22 April 2013. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  23. ^ "NZ Power scheme a 'masterstroke'". 3 News NZ. 22 April 2013. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  24. ^ Trevett, Claire (31 August 2016). "National MP Maurice Williamson gets diplomatic posting to Los Angeles". The New Zealand Herald.
  25. ^ Newshub staff (27 November 2017). "Maurice Williamson's 'gay rainbow' speech goes big in Japan". Newshub.
  26. ^ Matthew Scott (4 October 2022). "Williamson Sparks up the East". Newsroom.
  27. ^ Bernard Orsman (16 May 2022). "Political veterans Maurice Williamson, Mike Lee, George Wood eyeing seats on Auckland Council". NZ Herald.
  28. ^ "Auckland Council's power shift". Newsroom. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  29. ^ "Maurice Williamson lands key role on plugging Auckland Council's budget shortfall". RNZ. 11 November 2022. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  30. ^ "Maurice Williamson complains Te Reo posters are 'objectionable'". Te Ao Māori News. Retrieved 13 December 2023.
  31. ^ Johnson, Erin (2 December 2023). "Auckland councillor criticised for 'vile' comment about Wellington mayor". Stuff. Retrieved 13 December 2023.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Pakuranga
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Land Information
Succeeded by