New Zealand general election, 1984

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New Zealand general election, 1984
New Zealand
1981 ←
14 July 1984 → 1987

All 95 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
48 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  David Lange Posts a Letter.jpg Robert Muldoon 1977.jpg
Leader David Lange Sir Robert Muldoon
Party Labour National
Leader since 1983 1974
Leader's seat Mangere Tamaki
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
  No image.png
Leader Bruce Beetham Bob Jones
Party Social Credit NZ Party
Leader since 1972 1983 (party foundation)
Leader's seat Rangitīkei (lost seat) Ohariu
Last election 2 Not yet founded
Seats won 2 0
Seat change Steady 0 Steady 0
Popular vote 236,385
Percentage 7.63 12.25%
Swing Decrease 13.07% Increase 12.25%

Prime Minister before election

Robert Muldoon

Elected Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1984 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape 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.


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.

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,[1][2][3] announced a snap election on national television. 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.

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.

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.[4] 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.[5] 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).[6]

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.

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.

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 become 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 a 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 (a region in the Bay of Plenty), 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 Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 95 829,154 42.97 56 +13
National 95 692,494 35.89 37 -10
NZ Party 95 236,385 12.25 0 0
Social Credit 95 147,162 7.63 2 0
Values 29 3,826 0.20 0 0
Independents 57 20,588 1.07 0 0
Total 464 1,929,699 95 +3

Votes summary[edit]

Popular Vote
NZ Party
Social Credit
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 New Zealand general election, 1984.[7]
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Ashburton Rob Talbot 472 G Stone
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 8,876 M Eardley-Wilmot
Avon Mary Batchelor 7,771 A P Cowie
Awarua Rex Austin 384 B G Raitt
Bay of Islands Neill Austin 3,298 L W Hunter
Birkenhead Jim McLay 1,717 J E T Course
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer 8,508 A A P Willy
Christchurch North (new electorate) Mike Moore 5,728 D J L Dumergue
Clutha Robin Gray 4,522 M J Sheppard
Dunedin North Stan Rodger 5,129 B Henderson
Dunedin West (new electorate) Clive Matthewson 6,011 D G P Russell
East Cape Duncan MacIntyre Anne Fraser 755 Miss Robyn J. Leeming[8]
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 M J Dobson
Franklin (new electorate) Bill Birch 5,210 R Haywood
Glenfield (new electorate) Judy Keall 809 D L Schnauer
Gisborne Bob Bell Allan Wallbank 1,100 Bob Bell
Hamilton East Ian Shearer Bill Dillon 2,168 Ian Shearer
Hamilton West Mike Minogue Trevor Mallard 809 Mike Minogue
Hastings David Butcher 4,273 P D Brown
Hauraki Graeme Lee 3,432 A D T Thompson
Hawkes Bay Richard Harrison Bill Sutton 974 Richard Harrison
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 4,537 A J MacFarlane
Horowhenua Geoff Thompson Annette King 447 Geoff Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones 1,279 D E H Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 6,007 J Kananghinis
Kaimai Bruce Townshend 3,696 L J B Dickson
Kaipara Peter Ian Wilkinson Lockwood Smith 5,564 W J Campbell
Kapiti Margaret Shields 4,514 I J Oakley
King Country Jim Bolger 5,617 J E Simons
Lyttelton Ann Hercus 4,963 D G Graham
Manawatu Michael Cox 420 D C Alton
Mangere David Lange 8,375 P L Saunders
Manurewa Roger Douglas 4,933 S Leenstra
Marlborough Doug Kidd 612 G MacDonald
Matamata Jack Luxton 5,785 R I Clow
Miramar Peter Neilsen 3,499 D Crosbie
Mt Albert Helen Clark 6,207 R O Cavanagh
Napier Geoff Braybrooke 6,399 M P Liddell
Nelson Philip Woollaston 3,459 Mel Courtney
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 6,340 R A Hanson
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander 269 Ida Gaskin
North Shore George Gair 3,710 P J Harris
Ohariu Hugh Templeton Peter Dunne 1,371 Hugh Templeton
Onehunga Fred Gerbic 4,508 C A Freeman
Otago Warren Cooper 1,375 J D Polson
Otara (new electorate) Colin Moyle 6,519 M M M Tahia
Pahiatua John Falloon 5,478 M Brazendale
Pakuranga Pat Hunt Neil Morrison 172 Pat Hunt
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene 3,033 C G Singleton
Panmure (new electorate) Bob Tizard 5,979 C Tedesco
Papakura Merv Wellington 1,447 D L John
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey 2,996 P F O'Brien
Pencarrow Fraser Colman 5,418 K J B Cranston
Porirua Gerard Wall 5,418 A L Gadsby
Raglan (new electorate) Simon Upton 1,976 L Holmes
Rangiora Derek Quigley Jim Gerard 346 B C Tomlinson
Rangitikei Bruce Beetham Denis Marshall 5,799 Bruce Beetham
Remuera Allan Highet Doug Graham 3,483 K L Sandford
Rodney (new electorate) Don McKinnon 3,876 B R Dent
Roskill Phil Goff 4,208 C N Knowles
Rotorua Paul East 811 B D Arps
St Albans David Caygill 6,172 I G B Wilson
St Kilda Michael Cullen 5,594 J S Clark
Selwyn Ruth Richardson 3,829 C E Manning
Sydenham John Kirk[nb 1] Jim Anderton 7,255 E L Bonisch
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 3,758 R Tulloch
Taranaki David Thomson Roger Maxwell 6,013 G N Waters
Tarawera Ian McLean 3,377 M R Moore
Tasman Bill Rowling Ken Shirley 1,854 G H Hunt
Tauranga Keith Allen Winston Peters 4,912 D J Parlour
Te Atatu Michael Bassett 4,991 F W G Diment
Timaru Basil Arthur 2,219 Maurice McTigue
Tongariro (new electorate) Noel Scott 3,870 N F Rangi
Waikaremoana (new electorate) Roger McClay 1,737 J N Harré
Waikato Simon Upton Rob Storey 1,658 P J Cleave
Waipa Marilyn Waring Katherine O'Regan 5,667 A H Allen
Wairarapa Ben Couch Reg Boorman 394 Ben Couch
Waitakere Ralph Maxwell 4,474 J C McIntosh
Waitaki Jonathan Elworthy Jim Sutton 561 Jonathan Elworthy
Waitotara Venn Young 3,314 S C Perry
Wallace Derek Angus 5,663 C J Fisher
Wanganui Russell Marshall 3,918 Terry Heffernan
Wellington Central Fran Wilde 4,116 R A Young Rouse
West Auckland (new electorate) Jack Elder 2,229 Dail Jones
West Coast Kerry Burke 4,293 J W Bateman
Western Hutt John Terris 4,348 J W Tanner
Whangarei John Banks 2,003 B C Manger
Yaldhurst Mick Connelly Margaret Austin 2,970 H Joseph
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 11,230 B R Kiwara
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 7,688 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 10,495 N A Reedy
Western Maori Koro Wētere 10,110 W S Katene

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ 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.


  1. ^ "Eyewitness News - Snap Election Setup". NZ On Screen. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Sips causing political slips". Television New Zealand. 28 March 2001. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  3. ^ YouTube - Drunk Muldoon calls the 1984 election
  4. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 123f.
  5. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 111, 123.
  6. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 119–124.
  7. ^ Norton 1988, pp. ?.
  8. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 372.


  • 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.