New Zealand general election, 1987

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New Zealand general election, 1987
New Zealand
1984 ←
15 August 1987 (1987-08-15) → 1990

All 97 seats in the House of Representatives of New Zealand
49 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  David Lange Posts a Letter.jpg Jim Bolger at press conference cropped.jpg
Leader David Lange Jim Bolger
Party Labour National
Leader since 3 February 1983 26 March 1986
Leader's seat Mangere King Country
Last election 56 seats, 42.98% 37 seats, 35.89%
Seats before 55 38
Seats won 57 40
Seat change Increase 2 Increase 2
Popular vote 878,448 806,305
Percentage 47.96% 44.02%
Swing Increase 4.98% Increase 8.13%

Prime Minister before election

David Lange

Elected Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1987 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 42nd sitting of the Parliament of New Zealand. The governing New Zealand Labour Party, led by Prime Minister David Lange, was re-elected for a second term, although the Opposition National Party made gains. The election also saw the elimination of the Democratic Party (formerly the Social Credit Party) from Parliament, leaving Labour and National as the only parties represented.


Before the election, the Labour Party (in government) held 56 seats, giving it an absolute majority in Parliament. The National Party (in opposition) held 37 seats. The Democrats, a small party devoted to the principles of Social Credit, held two seats.

Of particular importance in the election were the economic reforms being undertaken by Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance. These reforms, sometimes known as "Rogernomics", involved monetarist approaches to controlling inflation, corporatisation of government departments, and the removal of tariffs and subsidies. All these things were strongly opposed by many traditional Labour supporters, who saw them as a betrayal of the party's left-wing principles. Many commentators believed that public anger over Rogernomics could cost the government the election.

Another matter of importance, and perhaps one which enabled Labour to survive public dissatisfaction, was the nuclear issue. In the previous parliamentary term, New Zealand had adopted legislation which prevented nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered ships entering New Zealand, a move which provoked an angry reaction from New Zealand's allies in the ANZUS treaty. The National Party intended to revoke the ban, but the New Zealand public were supportive of it. Labour's support for the ban is often considered to be an important factor in the party's re-election.

The election[edit]

The election was held on 15 August. 2,114,656 people were registered to vote.[1] Turnout was 89.1%, somewhat lower than the 1984 election.

Summary of results[edit]

The election saw the Labour Party win 57 seats, enough for it to retain its outright majority. Labour held one more seat than after the previous election. The National Party won 40 seats, an increase of three. It was possible for both parties to increase their number of seats partly due to the disappearance of the Democrats and partly due to the increase in the total number of seats.

Although Labour emerged from the election with a 17-seat lead over National, the difference between each party's vote count was considerably smaller. Labour's share of the vote was 48.0% (up from 43.0% in 1984), while National's was 44.0% (up from 35.5%). While Labour did retain its lead, the gap between Labour and National closed by a larger extent than the seat count would indicate.

The Democrats, despite winning 5.7% of the total vote, did not win any electorates, including the two that they had held before the election. The Democrats have not regained parliamentary representation under their own name since losing it in these elections, although they did manage to enter parliament as part of the larger Alliance.

The New Zealand Party, which had gained 12.2% of the vote in the previous election, performed poorly, gaining less than 0.1% support.

Electoral petition[edit]

The election night result for Wairarapa was for National by 65 votes. The final official count however gave the seat to the incumbent, Reg Boorman of the Labour Party, by a margin of seven votes, although a Judicial Recount reduced this to only one vote. But on 12 July 1988, following a petition to the Electoral Court, Wyatt Creech of the National Party was declared elected by a margin of 34 votes (9994 to 9960). The petition was supported initially by MPs Roger McClay and Winston Peters (who had been involved in challenges in Taupo and Hunua) but not by the party hierarchy, according to Creech’s account in a book by Ross Meurant).[2]

Detailed results[edit]

Party totals[edit]

Election results
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won
Labour 97 878,448 47.96 57
National 97 806,305 44.02 40
Democratic 97 105,091 5.74 -
Independents 5 11,873 0.64 -
Others 128 30,060 1.64 -
Total 424 1,831,777 97

Votes summary[edit]

Popular Vote
Parliament seats

There were 97 seats being contested, two more than were in the previous parliament. All seats were won by one of the two major parties.

The Labour Party, which was in government, won 57 seats, giving it a majority. Most of the seats won by Labour were in urban areas, following the party's typical pattern. Labour was particularly strong in the Wellington region, where it won all ten urban seats. It was also strong in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, the other three urban centres, as well as in smaller cities such as Hamilton, New Plymouth, Nelson, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. Labour also retained its traditional dominance in the Maori seats, winning all four by large margins.

The National Party, also following its traditional patters, was strongest in rural areas, winning the vast majority of seats in these regions. The party's primary wins in urban areas were in Auckland, with the party taking six seats. The party also won a number of seats in smaller cities, such as Rotorua, Tauranga, Invercargill and Whangarei. The party performed poorly in the Maori electorates, coming third in all four.

While no minor parties managed to win an electorate, several did manage to gain second place, outperforming one of the major parties but being defeated by the other. The Democrats (formerly Social Credit) was the strongest of the minor parties, coming second in five electorates. Two electorates, East Coast Bays and Pakuranga, were held by the Democrats prior to the election, but were narrowly lost to National candidates. In the other electorates (Coromandel, Rangitikei and Wanganui) the Democrats were the challengers. In the four Maori electorates, the Mana Motuhake party gained second place. Its best result, 31.6%, was obtained in Northern Maori. The New Zealand Party also performed strongly in some electorates, although not as strongly as in the previous election.

Independent candidates did not perform well in the 1987 election, with none of them winning a seat or even placing second.

The tables below shows the results of the 1987 general election:


 National    Labour    Social Credit    Mana Motuhake    Democrats    Independent  

Electorate results for the New Zealand general election, 1987
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Albany (new electorate) Don McKinnon
Ashburton Rob Talbot Jenny Shipley (Labour)
Auckland Central Richard Prebble
Avon Mary Batchelor Larry Sutherland (N/A)
Awarua Rex Austin Jeff Grant (N/A)
Bay of Islands Neill Austin John Carter (N/A)
Birkenhead Jim McLay Jenny Kirk 2,220 Barry Gustafson (National)
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer
Christchurch North (new electorate) Mike Moore
Clevedon (new electorate) Warren Kyd
Clutha Robin Gray
Coromandel (new electorate) Graeme Lee
Dunedin North Stan Rodger
Dunedin West Clive Matthewson
East Cape Anne Fraser
East Coast Bays Gary Knapp Murray McCully 311 Gary Knapp (Social Credit)
Eastern Hutt Trevor Young
Eden Richard Northey
Fendalton Philip Burdon
Gisborne Allan Wallbank
Glenfield Judy Keall
Hamilton East Bill Dillon
Hamilton West Trevor Mallard
Hastings David Butcher
Hawkes Bay Bill Sutton
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries
Hobson (new electorate) Ross Meurant 4,998 I J Melville
Horowhenua Annette King
Invercargill Norman Jones Rob Munro (N/A)
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 7313 Ms S S Clark
Kaimai Bruce Townshend Robert Anderson (N/A)
Kaipara Lockwood Smith
Kapiti Margaret Shields
King Country Jim Bolger
Lyttelton Ann Hercus Peter Simpson (N/A)
Manawatu David Robinson Hamish MacIntyre (N/A)
Mangere David Lange
Manurewa Roger Douglas
Maramarua (new electorate) Bill Birch
Marlborough Doug Kidd
Matamata Jack Luxton John Luxton (N/A)
Miramar Peter Neilsen
Mount Albert Helen Clark
Napier Geoff Braybrooke
Nelson Philip Woollaston Mel Courtney
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander Harry Duynhoven Tony Friedlander (National)
North Shore George Gair
Ohariu Peter Dunne
Onehunga Fred Gerbic
Otago Warren Cooper
Otara Colin Moyle 2409 Trevor Rogers
Pahiatua John Falloon
Pakuranga Neil Morrison Maurice Williamson 2018 Neil Morrison (Social Credit)
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene
Panmure Bob Tizard
Papakura Merv Wellington
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey Ross Robertson 2,689 H R Martin (National)
Pencarrow Fraser Colman Sonja Davies (N/A)
Porirua Gerard Wall Graham Kelly (N/A)
Raglan Simon Upton
Rangiora Jim Gerard
Rangitikei Denis Marshall
Remuera Doug Graham 406 Judith Tizard
Roskill Phil Goff
Rotorua Paul East 2,425 Ms R Mitchie
St Albans David Caygill
St Kilda Michael Cullen
Selwyn Ruth Richardson
Sydenham Jim Anderton[nb 1]
Tamaki Rob Muldoon
Taranaki Roger Maxwell
Tarawera Ian McLean
Tasman Ken Shirley
Tauranga Winston Peters 2,451 Ms J M Seddon
Te Atatu Michael Bassett
Timaru Maurice McTigue
Titirangi Ralph Maxwell 3,954 J C McIntosh
Tongariro Noel Scott 2,370 Ian Peters
Waikaremoana Roger McClay
Waikato Rob Storey
Waipa Katherine O'Regan
Wairarapa Reg Boorman Wyatt Creech[nb 2] 34 Reg Boorman (Labour)
Waitaki Jim Sutton
Waitotara Venn Young
Wallace Derek Angus
Wanganui Russell Marshall Terry Heffernan
West Auckland Jack Elder 2,844 Ben Couch
Wellington Central Fran Wilde
West Coast Kerry Burke
Western Hutt John Terris Joy McLauchlan
Whangarei John Banks
Yaldhurst Margaret Austin 2,542 C J Bacon
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 8,696 N A Reedy
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 3,529 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 8,848 Tikirau Stevens
Western Maori Koro Wētere 8,129 Eva Rickard

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ Jim Anderton defected to New Labour in 1989.
  2. ^ Creech was declared elected by the High Court after an Electoral Petition


  1. ^ "General elections 1853–2005 – dates & turnout". Chief Electoral Office. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  2. ^ Meurant 1989, pp. 181–198.


  • Bassett, Michael (2008). Working with David: Inside the Lange Cabinet. Auckland: Hodder Moa. ISBN 978-1-86971-094-1. 
  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6. 
  • Meurant, Ross (1989). The Beat to the Beehive. Auckland: Harlen Books. ISBN 0-908-757-05-0. 
  • 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.