1984 New Zealand general election

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1984 New Zealand general election

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All 95 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
48 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader David Lange Sir Robert Muldoon
Party Labour National
Leader since 3 February 1983 9 July 1974
Leader's seat Mangere Tamaki
Last election 43 seats, 39.01% 47 seats, 38.77%
Seats won 56 37
Seat change Increase13 Decrease10
Popular vote 829,154 692,494
Percentage 42.98% 35.89%
Swing Increase3.97% Decrease2.88%

  Third party Fourth party
Leader Bruce Beetham Bob Jones
Party Social Credit NZ Party
Leader since 14 May 1972 21 August 1983
Leader's seat Rangitikei (lost seat) None (contested Ohariu)
Last election 2 seats, 20.65% Not yet founded
Seats won 2 0
Seat change Steady 0 Steady 0
Popular vote 147,162 236,385
Percentage 7.63% 12.25%
Swing Decrease 13.02% Increase 12.25%

Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

Robert Muldoon

Subsequent Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the composition of the 41st New Zealand Parliament. It marked the beginning of the Fourth Labour Government, with David Lange's Labour Party defeating the long-serving Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, of the National Party. It was also the last election in which the Social Credit Party won seats as an independent entity. The election was also the only one in which the New Zealand Party, a protest party, played any substantial role.

A snap election, Muldoon called for it a month prior. When doing so he was both live on television and visibly drunk, leading to the election being dubbed the "schnapps election".[1]


Before the election, the National Party governed with 47 seats, a small majority. The opposition Labour Party held 43 seats, and the Social Credit Party held two. Although National theoretically commanded a two-seat lead over the other parties, dissent within the National caucus (particularly by Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue) resulted in serious problems for National leader Robert Muldoon. Muldoon felt that he could no longer maintain a majority until the end of the sitting year.[2]

The 1984 election was called when Marilyn Waring told Muldoon that she would not support his government in the vote over an opposition-sponsored anti-nuclear bill. Muldoon, visibly drunk,[3][4][5] announced a snap election on national television on the night of 14 June. It is believed that Muldoon's behaviour was also the result of a number of personal factors, including, not least, tiredness and frustration, but alcohol and diabetes also, issues that had been plaguing him for some time.[6] Muldoon's drunkenness while making the announcement led to the election being nicknamed the "schnapps election".[7][8]

There is debate over whether the election was necessary — Waring had not threatened to block confidence and supply, meaning that the government could still have continued on even if it had lost the anti-nuclear vote. Nevertheless, Muldoon appears to have wanted an election to reinforce his mandate (just as Sidney Holland sought and won a mandate to oppose striking dock-workers with the 1951 snap election).

Muldoon's government, which had been growing increasingly unpopular in its third term, was seen as rigid, inflexible, and increasingly unresponsive to public concerns. The Labour Party had actually gained a plurality of the vote in the previous two elections, but had narrowly missed out on getting a majority of the seats. Labour's primary campaign message was one of change — Muldoon's government, which employed wage and price controls in an attempt to "guide" the economy, was widely blamed for poor economic performance. Labour also campaigned to reduce government borrowing, and to enact nuclear-free policy.

The New Zealand Party, founded by property tycoon Bob Jones, was launched primarily to oppose the Muldoon government (although it did not support Labour). A right-wing liberal party, it promoted less government control over markets, in contrast to the paternalist and somewhat authoritarian policies of National, the other significant right-wing party.[9]

MPs retiring in 1984[edit]

Seven National MPs and two Labour MPs intended to retire at the end of the 40th Parliament.

Party Name Electorate
National Duncan MacIntyre East Cape
Peter Wilkinson Kaipara
Derek Quigley Rangiora
Allan Highet Remuera
David Thomson Taranaki
Keith Allen Tauranga
Marilyn Waring Waipa
Labour Bill Rowling Tasman
Mick Connelly Yaldhurst

Electoral changes[edit]

The 1983 electoral redistribution was even more politically influenced than the previous one in 1977. The Labour Party believed it had been disadvantaged in 1977 and it was not to let this happen again. Every proposal was put to intense scrutiny, and this resulted in the electoral redistribution taking forty-one working days; the average length of the five previous redistributions was eight. As Social Credit had two MPs, the Labour Party nominee on the commission formally represented that party, which further increased tensions. The 1981 census had shown that the North Island had experienced further population growth, and three additional general seats were created, bringing the total number of electorates to 95.[10] The South Island had, for the first time, experienced a population loss, but its number of general electorates was fixed at 25 since the 1967 electoral redistribution.[11] More of the South Island population was moving to Christchurch, and two electorates were abolished (Dunedin Central and Papanui), while two electorates were recreated (Christchurch North and Dunedin West). In the North Island, six electorates were newly created (Glenfield, Otara, Panmure, Tongariro, Waikaremoana, and West Auckland), three electorates were recreated (Franklin, Raglan, and Rodney), and six electorates were abolished (Albany, Helensville, Hunua, Otahuhu, Rangiriri, and Taupo).[12]

The election[edit]

The election was held on 14 July. There were 2,111,651 registered voters. Turnout was 93.7%, the highest turnout ever recorded in a New Zealand election. Most political scientists attribute the high turnout to a desire by voters for change.[13]

Immediately after the election there was a constitutional crisis when Muldoon initially refused to follow the advice of the incoming Labour government and devalue the New Zealand Dollar.[14]

Summary of results[edit]

The 1984 election saw the Labour Party win 56 of the 95 seats in parliament, a gain of 13. This was enough for it to hold an outright majority and form the fourth Labour government. The National Party won only 37 seats, a loss of ten. The New Zealand Party, despite winning 12.2% of the vote, failed to gain any seats at all. Social Credit managed to win two seats, the same number as it had held previously. The Values Party, an environmentalist group, gained fifth place, but no seats.

There were 95 seats being contested in the 1984 election, three more than in the previous parliament. All but two of these seats were won by one of the two major parties.

The Labour Party, previously in opposition, won 56 seats, an outright majority. Most of the seats won by Labour were in urban areas, following the party's typical pattern. Exceptions to this general trend include the eastern tip of the North Island and the western coast of the South Island. Labour's strongest regions were the Wellington area (where the party won every seat), as well as Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin (cities in which it won most seats). Smaller cities such as Hamilton, Nelson, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North were also won by Labour. As expected, Labour also won all four Māori seats, maintaining its traditional strength there.

The National Party, the incumbent government, was (as expected) strongest in rural areas. Most of the rural North Island was won by National, as were most of the rural areas on the South Island's eastern coast. In the larger cities, the party fared poorly, with Auckland and Christchurch being the only places that the party won seats. It was more successful in smaller cities, however, winning Rotorua, Tauranga, Invercargill, New Plymouth and Whangarei. It was placed second in two Māori electorates, and third in the other two.

The only minor party to win electorates was the Social Credit Party, which won East Coast Bays and Pakuranga (both in Auckland). It had held East Coast Bays before the election, but won Pakuranga for the first time. It did not manage to retain Rangitikei, which it had also held before the election. Social Credit candidates were placed second in six electorates, including Rangitikei.

The New Zealand Party, despite gaining more votes than Social Credit, did not win any seats. Some commentators have suggested that the party was not seeking to do so, and instead was merely acting as a spoiler for National. This impression has been backed up by comments by Bob Jones himself. The party was, however, placed second in the electorates of Remuera (an affluent part of Auckland), Kaimai, and Tauranga.

The Values Party, an environmentalist group, managed to win 0.2% of the vote, substantially below previous efforts. The party, which was in slow decline, would eventually vanish, but its ideals and goals would be reborn in the Green Party.

In two of the Māori electorates, the Mana Motuhake party gained second place, but the party did not gain a substantial number of votes elsewhere.

No independent candidates won seats, but one independent candidate, Mel Courtney, was placed second in the electorate of Nelson.

Detailed results[edit]

Party results[edit]

Party Candidates Votes Seats
Count Of total (%)
Labour 95 829,154 42.98 56 +13
National 95 692,494 35.90 37 −10
NZ Party 95 236,385 12.25 0 0
Social Credit 95 147,162 7.63 2 0
Mana Motuhake 8 5,989 0.31 0 0
Values 29 3,871 0.20 0 0
Others 57 20,588 1.07 0 0
Total 466 1,929,201 95 +3

Votes summary[edit]

Popular Vote
NZ Party
Social Credit
Mana Motuhake
Parliament seats
Social Credit

Electorate results[edit]

The tables below shows the results of the 1984 general election:


  National   Labour   NZ Party
  Social Credit   Mana Motuhake   Independent
Electorate results for the 1984 New Zealand general election.[15]
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Ashburton Rob Talbot 472 Geoff Stone
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 8,876 Maureen Eardley-Wilmot
Avon Mary Batchelor 7,771 Andrew Cowie
Awarua Rex Austin 384 Barry Rait
Bay of Islands Neill Austin 3,298 Les Hunter
Birkenhead Jim McLay 1,717 John Course
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer 8,508 Tony Willy
Christchurch North New electorate Mike Moore 5,728 David Dumergue
Clutha Robin Gray 4,522 M J Sheppard
Dunedin North Stan Rodger 5,129 Barbara Henderson
Dunedin West New electorate Clive Matthewson 6,011 Derek Russell
East Cape Duncan MacIntyre Anne Fraser 755 Robyn J. Leeming[16]
East Coast Bays Gary Knapp 2,020 Murray McCully
Eastern Hutt Trevor Young 6,005 Joy McLauchlan
Eden Aussie Malcolm Richard Northey 2,306 Aussie Malcolm
Fendalton Philip Burdon 1,457 Murray Dobson
Franklin New electorate Bill Birch 5,210 Roy Haywood
Gisborne Bob Bell Allan Wallbank 2,168 Bob Bell
Glenfield New electorate Judy Keall 809 David Schnauer
Hamilton East Ian Shearer Bill Dillon 1,100 Ian Shearer
Hamilton West Mike Minogue Trevor Mallard 803 Mike Minogue
Hastings David Butcher 4,273 Peter Brown
Hauraki Graeme Lee 3,432 Alisdair Thompson
Hawke's Bay Richard Harrison Bill Sutton 974 Richard Harrison
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 4,537 Anna MacFarlane
Horowhenua Geoff Thompson Annette King 447 Geoff Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones 1,279 Dougal Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 6,007 John Kananghinis
Kaimai Bruce Townshend 3,696 Leslie Dickson
Kaipara Peter Wilkinson Lockwood Smith 5,564 Bill Campbell
Kapiti Margaret Shields 4,514 June Oakley
King Country Jim Bolger 5,617 James Edward Simons
Lyttelton Ann Hercus 4,963 Doug Graham [nb 1]
Manawatu Michael Cox 420 Dave Alton
Mangere David Lange 8,375 Peter Saunders
Manurewa Roger Douglas 4,933 Stuart Leenstra
Marlborough Doug Kidd 612 George MacDonald
Matamata Jack Luxton 5,785 Ross Clow
Miramar Peter Neilsen 3,499 Don Crosbie
Mt Albert Helen Clark 6,207 Rod Cavanagh
Napier Geoff Braybrooke 6,399 M P Liddell
Nelson Philip Woollaston 3,678 Mel Courtney
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 6,340 Ron Hanson
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander 269 Ida Gaskin
North Shore George Gair 3,710 Peter Harris
Ohariu Hugh Templeton Peter Dunne 1,371 Hugh Templeton [nb 2]
Onehunga Fred Gerbic 4,508 Carol Freeman
Otago Warren Cooper 1,375 David Polson
Otara New electorate Colin Moyle 6,519 Taua Michael Tafua
Pahiatua John Falloon 5,478 Malcolm Brazendale
Pakuranga Pat Hunt Neil Morrison 172 Pat Hunt
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene 3,033 Colleen Singleton
Panmure New electorate Bob Tizard 5,979 Carolyn Tedesco
Papakura Merv Wellington 1,447 Lynn John
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey 2,996 Peter O'Brien
Pencarrow Fraser Colman 5,418 Barry Cranston
Porirua Gerry Wall 5,418 A L Gadsby
Raglan New electorate Simon Upton 1,976 Linda Holmes
Rangiora Derek Quigley Jim Gerard 346 Brian Tomlinson
Rangitikei Bruce Beetham Denis Marshall 504 Bruce Beetham
Remuera Allan Highet Doug Graham 3,483 Kenneth Sandford
Rodney New electorate Don McKinnon 3,876 Brian Dent
Roskill Phil Goff 4,208 Chris Knowles
Rotorua Paul East 811 Brian Arps
St Albans David Caygill 6,172 Ian Wilson
St Kilda Michael Cullen 5,594 Stewart Clark
Selwyn Ruth Richardson 3,829 Charles Manning
Sydenham John Kirk[nb 3] Jim Anderton 7,255 Pat Bonisch
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 3,758 Robin Tulloch
Taranaki David Thomson Roger Maxwell 6,013 Graeme Waters
Tarawera Ian McLean 3,377 Malcolm Moore
Tasman Bill Rowling Ken Shirley 1,854 Gerald Hunt
Tauranga Keith Allen Winston Peters 4,912 David Parlour
Te Atatu Michael Bassett 4,991 Frank Diment
Timaru Basil Arthur 2,219 Maurice McTigue
Tongariro New electorate Noel Scott 3,870 Nelson Rangi
Waikaremoana New electorate Roger McClay 1,737 John Harré
Waikato Simon Upton Rob Storey 1,658 Peter Cleave
Waipa Marilyn Waring Katherine O'Regan 5,667 Anthony H. Allen
Wairarapa Ben Couch Reg Boorman 394 Ben Couch
Waitakere Ralph Maxwell 4,474 John McIntosh
Waitaki Jonathan Elworthy Jim Sutton 561 Jonathan Elworthy
Waitotara Venn Young 3,314 Stuart Perry
Wallace Derek Angus 5,663 Calvin Fisher
Wanganui Russell Marshall 3,918 Terry Heffernan
Wellington Central Fran Wilde 4,116 Rosemary Young-Rouse
West Auckland New electorate Jack Elder 2,229 Dail Jones
West Coast Kerry Burke 4,293 John Bateman
Western Hutt John Terris 4,348 John Tanner
Whangarei John Banks 2,003 Barbara Magner
Yaldhurst Mick Connelly Margaret Austin 2,970 Howard Joseph
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 11,230 Barry Kiwara
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 7,688 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 10,495 Amster Reedy
Western Maori Koro Wētere 10,110 Bill Katene

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ The candidate Doug Graham who contested the Lyttelton electorate for National is a different person from Doug Graham, who contested and won the Remuera seat.
  2. ^ Bob Jones came third for the New Zealand Party in Ohariu
  3. ^ In July 1983 Kirk said he would not stand in 1984: when Anderton was selected for Sydenham, Kirk (a Lange supporter) withdrew from the Labour caucus and was suspended by Labour, becoming an independent

Summary of changes[edit]

  • Eleven new seats were created, of which seven (Christchurch North, Dunedin West, Glenfield, Otara, Panmure, Tongariro and West Auckland) were won by Labour, and four (Franklin, Raglan, Rodney and Waikaremoana) by National.
  • A further ten seats were won by Labour from National: East Cape, Eden, Hamilton East, Hamilton West, Hawkes Bay, Horowhenua, Ohariu, Wairarapa and Waitaki. Social Credit lost Rangitikei to National. National also lost Pakuranga to Social Credit.
  • Nine electorates had incumbent MPs retire and replaced them with MPs from the same party, six National and three Labour. Kaipara, Rangiora, Taranaki, Tauranga, Waikato and Waipa remained National, while Sydenham, Tasman and Yaldhurst remained Labour. In Rangiora, National MP Derek Quigley's decision not to stand for re-election followed serious clashes with Muldoon over economic policy, while in Sydenham, John Kirk had resigned from the Labour Party.

Major policy platforms[edit]

Labour Party[edit]

  • Central aims
    • "A society where people don't feel challenged to be nasty about everyone else" – David Lange.[17] Drawn together to work for the interests of their country, a chance for everyone to have a chance to be equal, in education, society and jobs (regardless of gender or race).[17] A programme of moderation and realism.
  • State of economy
    • To take stock of the overseas debt, focus on the unemployment rates. To target money into jobs which use New Zealand resources which turn our primary production into a higher value product. Using tourism as an employment generator. Assigning resources to small businesses and enterprises.
  • Nuclear issues
    • Opposed to nuclear testing. Keeping New Zealand defended without nuclear propelled vessels. Discuss with the allies and traders moving forward nuclear free,
  • Prices, Incomes and industrial
    • Industrial relations policy government boss and worker have to fix limits, bargaining, you cannot have country where prices can soar and wages are screwed down.

National Party[edit]

  • Central aims
    • To get New Zealand through difficult times with success.[17] To deal with political issues sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. Match taxation to promises.
  • State of economy
    • Continue to tackle problems at their source, support for wage and price freezes. To adopt a business mindset, use overseas borrowing for huge projects to get net earnings.[17]
  • Nuclear issues
    • Opposed to nuclear testing and weapons. Opposed to making them, using them or storing them. ANZUS nuclear propelled vessels are permitted to keep the ANZUS treaty.
  • Prices, Incomes and industrial
    • Wage and price freeze will work, it's what the public wants. Long term wage-fixing system, agreement with unions and employers.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Robert Muldoon | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". nzhistory.govt.nz. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  2. ^ Johansson, Jon (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 1877399019. OCLC 63658626.
  3. ^ "Eyewitness News – Snap Election Setup". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Sips causing political slips". Television New Zealand. 28 March 2001. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  5. ^ YouTube – Drunk Muldoon calls the 1984 election
  6. ^ Johansson, Jon (2005). Two titans : Muldoon, Lange and leadership. Wellington, N.Z.: Dunmore Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 1877399019. OCLC 63658626.
  7. ^ "Robert Muldoon". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2010.
  8. ^ Martin Johnston (14 June 2019). "The night Prime Minister Rob Muldoon gambled on a snap election - June 1984 remembered". New Zealand Herald.
  9. ^ Shand, G. G. (22 August 1983). "Jones Party Aims to Occupy Political Gap". The New Zealand Herald. p. 20.
  10. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 123f.
  11. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 111, 123.
  12. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 119–124.
  13. ^ "Election flashback: 'He's won on a nothing policy' – watch bitter Muldoon concede to Lange in 1984". TVNZ. 19 September 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  14. ^ Roughan, John (2 August 2005). "July 1984: When life in NZ turned upside down". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  15. ^ Norton 1988, pp. ?.
  16. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 372.
  17. ^ a b c d "Comments | The 1984 Leaders Debate | Television". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 13 May 2018.


  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.
  • Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN 0-475-11200-8.
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.