Sydenham (New Zealand electorate)

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Sydenham was a New Zealand parliamentary electorate, from 1881 to 1890 and again from 1946 to 1996. It had notable politicians representing it like Mabel Howard (the first female cabinet minister in New Zealand), Norman Kirk (who became Prime Minister while holding Sydenham) and Jim Anderton (the former Father of the House, who started his parliamentary career in Sydenham).

Population centres[edit]

The previous electoral redistribution was undertaken in 1875 for the 1875–76 election. In the six years since, New Zealand's European population had increased by 65%. In the 1881 electoral redistribution, the House of Representatives increased the number of European representatives to 91 (up from 84 since the 1875–76 election). The number of Māori electorates was held at four. The House further decided that electorates should not have more than one representative, which led to 35 new electorates being formed, including Sydenham, and two electorates that had previously been abolished to be recreated. This necessitated a major disruption to existing boundaries.[1]

The 1941 census had been postponed due to World War II, so the 1946 electoral redistribution had to take ten years of population growth and movements into account. The North Island gained a further two electorates from the South Island due to faster population growth. The abolition of the country quota through the Electoral Amendment Act, 1945 reduced the number and increased the size of rural electorates. None of the existing electorates remained unchanged, 27 electorates were abolished, 19 electorates were created for the first time, and eight former electorates were re-established, including Sydenham.[2]

This suburban electorate is in the southern suburbs of Christchurch including Sydenham.


The electorate existed from 1881 to 1890 and then from the 1946 election to the 1996 election, the first mixed-member proportional (MMP) election.

The first MP for Sydenham was William White from 1881 to 1886. He resigned upon receiving medical advice.[3]

From 1886 to 1890, it was represented by Richard Molesworth Taylor.[4][5]

From 1946 to 1996, the electorate was always left leaning. In 1946, Mabel Howard was elected. She held the electorate until 1969, when the Labour Party introduced rules that forced her to retire. In 1947 she became New Zealand's first woman cabinet minister when she was made Minister of Health and Minister in charge of Child Welfare. She is remembered for waving two large pairs of bloomers in parliament in support of her successful campaign to have clothing sizes standardised.[6]

Howard was succeeded by Norman Kirk, who in 1969 shifted from the Lyttelton electorate to the safer Labour electorate of Sydenham. During his representation of Sydenham, he became Prime Minister. He died in office on 31 August 1974.[7]

John Kirk succeeded his father in a 1974 by-election. Kirk Jr. held the electorate for ten years until 1984. In July 1983, John Kirk announced that he would not seek the Labour Party's nomination for Sydenham in the 1984 election. In his place Labour selected Jim Anderton, the party president, whereupon Kirk (a strong David Lange supporter) declared that he would stand against the official Labour candidate as an independent. His continuing opposition to Anderton's selection resulted in the Labour Party's New Zealand Council suspending him from membership of the Labour Party. Kirk served out the remainder of his parliamentary career as an Independent MP. John Kirk left New Zealand in 1984 while still an MP for Sydenham, as he owed more than $280,000. He was arrested in the US and imprisoned, and then extradited to New Zealand, where he was charged under the Insolvency Act 1985. He was sentenced to four months' periodic detention.[8]

Anderton was successful in Sydenham in 1969 and started his long parliamentary career. He held the seat until the abolition of the electorate in 1996 then transferring to Wigram, and from 29 April 2009 until his retirement at the 2011 election he was Father of the House. While holding Sydenham, Anderton defected from the Labour Party to found the NewLabour Party in 1989, and was re-elected in the electorate in 1990. In 1991, NewLabour and several other parties formed the Alliance, a broad left-wing coalition. Anderton was elected for the Alliance in 1993.

Sydenham was abolished in 1996 and replaced by the Wigram electorate.

Members of Parliament[edit]


 Independent    Labour    NewLabour    Alliance  

Election Winner
1881 election William White
1884 election
1886 by-election Richard Taylor
1887 election
(electorate abolished 1887–1946)
1946 election Mabel Howard
1949 election
1951 election
1954 election
1957 election
1960 election
1963 election
1966 election
1969 election Norman Kirk
1972 election
1974 by-election John Kirk1
1975 election
1978 election
1981 election
1984 election Jim Anderton2
1987 election
1990 election
1993 election
(Electorate abolished 1996)

1 John Kirk became an independent in 1983.
2 Jim Anderton defected to New Labour in 1989, and co-founded the Alliance in 1991.

Election results[edit]

1974 by-election[edit]

Sydenham by-election, 1974[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour John Kirk 6,664 62.9
Social Credit Joe Poundsford 1,778 16.8
Values Andrew Lea 685 6.5
Independent National Saul Goldsmith 684 6.4
Independent D J Crawford 321 3.0
Christian Independent T C Fouhy 274 2.6
Socialist Action Kay Goodger 181 1.7
Progressive Kiwi David Mitchell 13 1.7
Informal votes 101
Majority 4,886 46.1
Turnout 10,600 51.9
Registered electors 20,428
Labour hold Swing

1972 election[edit]

General election, 1972: Sydenham[9]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Norman Kirk 11,711 67.4 +3.9
National J F Burn 4,722 27.2
Social Credit A C Easterbrook 758 4.4
Independent Michael Hansen 67 0.4 -0.3
New Democratic J B Elliot 62 0.4
Independent A M Leeman-Smith 42 0.2
Majority 6,989 40.2 +3.9
Turnout 19,382 87.2 +0.1

1969 election[edit]

General election, 1969: Sydenham[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Norman Kirk 10,575 63.5
National Peter Morrisey 4,549 27.3
Social Credit Joe Pounsford 1,285 7.7 -9.3
Independent I A Moore 121 0.8
Independent Michael Hansen 110 0.7
Majority 6,026 36.3
Turnout 19,203 87.1 +3.9

1886 by-election[edit]

Sydenham by-election, 1886[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Independent Richard Molesworth Taylor 438 39.35
Independent John Lee Scott 418 37.56
Independent Samuel Paull Andrews 230 20.66
Independent S. G. Jolly 2 0.18
Rejected ballots 25 2.25
Turnout 1,113
Majority 20 1.77


  1. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 43–48.
  2. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 91–96.
  3. ^ "The Sydenham Electorate.". The Star (5580). 30 March 1886. p. 3. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "The Sydenham Election". The Star (5617). 13 May 1886. p. 3. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "Sydenham.". The Star (6043). 27 September 1887. p. 3. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  6. ^ McAloon, Jim. "Howard, Mabel Bowden". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Bassett, Michael. "Kirk, Norman Eric". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Stickley, Tony (24 August 2005). "Awatere sent straight to jail over fraud charges". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Norton 1988, p. 351. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "FOOTNOTENorton1988351" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  10. ^ Norton 1988, pp. 350.


  • 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.