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Timeline of New Zealand & its human rights record

Doing a Google search on Murray Darroch

A collection of texts from the Holy Koran and the Holy Bible for each day of the month

New Zealand and its political & human rights record 1835 — 2007

Sources used for this political & human rights timeline record are

1835 — Northern Maori chiefs declare New Zealand’s independence

James Busby, who was the British consul in New Zealand, encouraged Maori chiefs in the Bay of Islands to declare New Zealand to be an independent country. This resulted in Maori owned ships trading with the British colonies in Australia having a recognised flag showing they had registration in a recognised country of origin. This guaranteed them safe from confiscation. (In terms of international maritime law at that time, any shipping that did not have a recognised flag and registration from a recognised country, could be lawfully confiscated.)

1840 — Treaty of Waitangi.

This treaty was signed between Captain William Hobson representing the British Government and various Maori chiefs (but not all) leading Maori tribal chiefs. Included as signatories were a small number of women who were themselves Maori tribal chiefs. The treaty was first signed at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands. Various copies were then taken elsewhere around the coast of the North Island and along the length of the South Island. This was so that other Maori chiefs could also be signatories. Through this Treaty the indigenous Maori population accepted British sovereignty. This was in exchange for a guarantee for their possessions and treasures “taonga”, and also a guarantee of equal citizenship rights as British citizens. The British then established a form of government. This involved direct rule by a Governor residing in New Zealand. The first Governor was Captain William Hobson.

NOTE Within New Zealand there is a range of opinion on the Treaty of Waitangi — ie its significance and meaning in 1840 and now. The interpretation I have given is widely held by many people in New Zealand. However it is an interpretation that is strongly contested by some other people in New Zealand.

1840 to 1850s — Establishment of towns in New Zealand

Prior to 1840 the only towns in New Zealand were in the Bay of Islands in the northern part of New Zealand. (The Bay of Islands was the first place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed).

The signing of the Treaty meant the establishment of formal Government throughout New Zealand. This included the establishment of a network of towns in 1840 in the North Island — Auckland, Wellington and Wanganui. This was followed by the establishment of New Plymouth in 1841 (also in the North Island). This was then followed by a network of towns in the South Island. Nelson was established in 1842, Dunedin and Port Chalmers in 1848 and Christchurch and Lyttelton in 1850. These towns were the major ports of entry for trade, immigration, the collection of taxes and the administration of justice. Each town was located on land that had been bought from local Maori people. The land was surveyed and sold to new migrants from Britain under a newly established land tenure system based on English law.

Each town was planned with roads and with various public facilities — including a public cemetery for each town. Where a town had sufficient numbers of Jewish migrants (as happened in Auckland and Wellington) the Jewish migrants were able to secure separate areas within those cemeteries for Jewish burials.

At that time there were no Muslims in New Zealand. (See entry for 1963 when Muslims were accorded equal status by having their own portion of a public cemetery reserved for their own use.)

1842 — The Chatham Islands annexed

The Chatham Islands became part of New Zealand. The Chatham Islands had previous historical associations with the North and South Islands of New Zealand. (The Chatham Islands are a group of islands 500 miles east of the South Island)

1843 — the start of public primary education in New Zealand

The first publicly (ie community) funded primary schools were established in Nelson in 1843, and in the villages of Wakefield and Spring Grove southwest of Nelson also that same year. This was followed by the establishment of Stoke Primary School in 1845. These initiatives were followed by other publicly funded primary schools elsewhere in New Zealand. All these publicly funded schools were “co-educational” — ie girls admitted as well as boys, and girls and boys being educated together.

Late 1840s and early 1850s — Maori education at church mission schools is subsidised by the Government

In terms of the obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi the British appointed Governor of New Zealand decided that school education for Maori children should be subsidised. Later the newly established New Zealand Parliament passed a law to put the ongoing funding of these schools on a formal basis.

1852 — the start of self government in New Zealand.

New Zealand Parliament established, with an appointed Upper House and an elected Lower House. By having an appointed Upper House and an elected Lower House, the New Zealand Parliament was in effect being modelled on the British Parliament — which still has a Lower House that is elected (the House of Commons) and an upper House that is appointed (the House of Lords). The Lower House of the New Zealand Parliament had a maximum three-year electoral term, with the franchise for elections restricted to adult males who own land. The amount of property required to qualify for the franchise was set at a low level to enable most adult males to be eligible. Also there were provincial councils established as a second tier of government. These provincial councils had extensive autonomy, and could pass their own laws that had similar status as laws made by the New Zealand Parliament.

NOTE Although Parliament can be seen as a permanent institution, there is a sense in which every three years there is a new Parliament. The purpose of Parliamentary General Elections is therefore for the choosing of the new Parliament.

1860s and 1870s — further developments in public education

A number of publicly funded secondary schools were established. Most were boys-only or girls-only secondary schools, but some in rural areas were co-educational. Where a publicly funded boys-only secondary school was established, it was shortly afterwards followed by a publicly funded girls-only secondary school teaching the same core subjects to the same educational standards.

1860s — Gold miners are enfranchised

Gold was discovered in a number of places throughout New Zealand during the 1860s. These discoveries resulted in large number of men coming from Australia and from California to stake claims. Each claim involved obtaining a licence to mine a small piece of land as a self-employed miner. These licences were issued on a ‘first-come first-served’ basis. Under a law passed in 1860 any man with a recognised claim, and had British citizenship was able to vote as a landowner via what is known as “the miner’s right”. This meant that those electorates where there were goldfields effectively had a franchise that involved all adult males able to vote.

From 1860 until the early 1870s — the New Zealand Civil Wars

There was conflict between the Government and some Maori tribes, which resulted in widespread land confiscation. From this time on the place of the Treaty of Waitangi was marginalised in terms of New Zealand’s political and legal framework.

NOTE The term “the New Zealand Civil Wars” is my term. This period is referred to by others who live in New Zealand as “the Maori Wars”, or “the New Zealand Wars”

1863 — the boundaries of New Zealand are defined

The British Parliament passed a law (the New Zealand Boundaries Act) that specified by two latitude references and two longitude references what was the area of land and sea that is defined as New Zealand.

1865 — Native Rights Act

The New Zealand Parliament, acting in part at the behest of the British Government, passed a law to make it absolutely clear that Maori people — both as groups and as individuals — have the same rights as Europeans to initiate legal civil actions in the Courts. This is the same right that is found in the Magna Carta signed in the 25th year of the reign of the King of England (Edward I) in the 13th century, as well as the Statute of Westminister passed in the 3rd year of the reign of Edward I. The relevant text of the Statute of Westminister says

“The king willeth and commandeth ….. that common right be done to all, as well poor as rich, without respect of persons.”

NOTE The first Magna Carta was signed in 1215 in the reign of king John of England. The second Magna Carta was signed during the reign of king Henry III of England (son of King John). The third Magna Carta was signed during the reign of king Edward I (son of king Henry III). All three Magna Carta have essentially the same content, but it is the Third Magna Carta that has some key provisions that still form part of the law of New Zealand. The term “Magna Carta” is the Latin words for “Great Charter”.

FURTHER NOTE The various words used to describe laws can be confusing. A statute is a law passed by Parliament. Statutes are referred to as Acts — ie the Native Rights Act 1865. When Parliament is considering a proposed law, then that proposed law is referred as a “Bill”. If a Bill is introduced into Parliament but Parliament votes against it, then it cannot become law — ie it cannot become an Act of Parliament.

1867 — Maori representation in Parliament

Four electorates in the New Zealand Parliament were allocated for Maori. (The remaining electorates were referred to as “European Electorates” and later on they were referred to as “General Electorates”.) This arrangement recognised that most Maori were technically ineligible for the franchise under the 1852 franchise arrangements. [This was because most Maori owned land was Maori tribal land and at that time there was no such thing as individual property rights involving Maori tribal land.] All Maori adults males were given the franchise under these new Maori electorate representation arrangements. Men who were of mixed Maori and non-Maori ancestry were able to choose whether to be on the electoral roll for a European electorate or on the electoral roll for a Maori electorate.

At the time these arrangements were first introduced they were meant to be temporary. However in 1876 these arrangements became permanent. (see also developments in 1975 below).

1867 — Some women get to vote in provincial council elections

From this date women who were property owners in the Otago and Nelson provinces were able to vote for provincial council elections. (Otago Province was the most economically advanced part of New Zealand at that time, and Dunedin — which was its main urban centre — was New Zealand’s wealthiest urban centre.)

1873 — Women able to be university graduates

In 1873 Canterbury University College was established, and women were admitted for degree study and graduate with university degrees. These entitlements for women were established on the first day the Canterbury University College was open for enrolments. Other university colleges elsewhere in New Zealand followed this precedent, but with facilities of law and medicine at these other university colleges only accepting this with great reluctance, and with a large amount of hostility to women students.

1873 — Julius Vogel, New Zealand’s Jewish Prime Minister initiates economic reforms

Julius Vogel (who later on was knighted and becomes Sir Julius Vogel) was appointed as Prime Minister in 1873 and served in this position for several years. Julius Vogel was a member of the Dunedin Jewish community and was New Zealand’s first Jewish Member of Parliament. (He was first elected to Parliament in 1863 for the Dunedin Suburbs electorate.) He initated a major programme of economic development involving massive expansion of New Zealands rail, road and telegraph systems and development of agriculture.

The spread of the telegraph was particularly important in linking New Zealand more closely to the rest of the world, and also linking the various parts of New Zealand closer together (see below).

1876 — Reform of New Zealand Government by Julius Vogel

Julius Vogel instigated moves by the New Zealand Parliament to strengthen the New Zealand Government by abolishing New Zealand’s system of provincial councils.

In its place there was established a comprehensive system of subordinate local government comprising cities, boroughs and counties. This system of local govenrment covered most parts of the North and South Islands of New Zealand. This system of local government had powers that were far more circumscribed than those enjoyed by the former provincial councils. These cities, boroughs and counties were given powers to levy a property tax on the value of land and buildings. Women who were property owners gain the franchise for local government elections.

In looking back at these developments it is interesting to note that Julius Vogel was a strong supporter of political rights for women, and later on in 1889, after he had retired to Britain, he had a novel published entitled “

Anno Domino 2000 — A Woman’s Destiny”.

In this novel he predicted that the world in the year 2000 would have complete gender equality and women would be holding positions as heads of governments. He also predicted the widespread use of electricity plus a form of communcation similar to what we would recognise as the internet.

1877 — Secular free public primary school education system established

A national state funded system of secular education was established. Primary school education is made compulsory for both girls and boys. Schools operated by religious organisations were encouraged to continue, and they expanded in number, but they were not state funded. In the New Zealand context these other schools were referred to as “independent schools”.

1878 — 1st attempt to enfranchise women as Parliamentary electors

A Bill seeking enfranchisement of women property owners as Parliamentary electors was debated and lost in the Lower House of Parliament. This debate was led and supported by a number of leading New Zealand male politicians, including Sir John Hall, Sir Robert Stout, Sir Julius Vogel, William Fox and John Ballance.

1879 — 2nd attempt to enfranchise women. Adult male suffrage granted

A law was passed by Parliament that all men 21 years and over who were British citizens (and were not prison inmates or mentally insane) were allowed to enrol and vote. At that time unsuccessful attempts were made in Parliament to have this law widened to include women as electors on an equal basis with men.

1881 — the boundaries of New Zealand are extended

The British Parliament passed a law that included the Kermadec Islands and the area of sea that surrounds them as part of New Zealand. As with the 1863 New Zealand Boundaries Act, this law defines the area by means of designated west and east longitudes and designated north and south latitudes. The Kermadec Islands are north east of the North Island of New Zealand.

1881 — discrimination against Chinese people intensifies

The New Zealand Parliament passed laws to discourage immigration of Chinese. This included a poll tax on any Chinese entering New Zealand. These laws were enacted as a result of a commitment given by New Zealand representatives at a conference of the British colonies in Australia. At this time most of the Chinese living in New Zealand were men who have left wives and children behind in China, with the intention of earning money and returning to China. The first such immigrants had come during the 1860s during the goldrush period to work as independent self-employed miners. These anti Chinese laws were strongly supported by public opinion within New Zealand.

In spite of the strong racial stereotypes against Chinese, there were isolated instances where individual Chinese were accorded a degree of equality and respect. One instance is Chew Chong. His business acumen and vision was credited as saving Taranaki dairy farmers and the Taranaki dairy industry from economic ruin. In fact if it had not been for Chew Chong it is difficult to envisage how the Taranaki dairy industry could have survived.

1891 — New Zealand’s first woman doctor starts her training

In 1891 Emily Siedeberg became the first woman in New Zealand to be allowed to train to be to a physician. After her graduation she specialised in obstetrics. She later became medical superintendent of Dunedin’s St Helen’s Hospital. [The St Helen hospitals were established in the early 20th century in the four main cities of New Zealand to provide specialised maternal and child health care.] Like Sir Julius Vogel (mentioned above) and Ethel Benjamin (mentioned below), Emily Siedeberg was a member of Dunedin’s Jewish community.

1891 and 1892 — Further attempts to enfranchise women as Parliamentary electors

Bills to enfranchise women as electors on the same basis as men were passed by the Lower House of Parliament. However these Bills failed to pass the Upper House of Parliament.

1893 — Full political autonomy for New Zealand

The British Government’s Colonial Office told the Governor that he must act only on the advice of the New Zealand Prime Minister. The occasion arose as a result of the Governor being reluctant to act on advice from the Prime Minsiter to appoint additional members of the Upper House who would be sympathetic to the Government’s interests. The Government was facing a deadlock between the elected Lower House and the appointed Upper House. The deadlock was resolved by the Governor doing as told. From this time on the Governor was a political figurehead and real power resided with Parliament and those who Parliament had chosen as Government Ministers.

NOTE There were events in England in 1714 that were a direct constitutional precedent for what later happened in New Zealand in 1893. In 1714 the British Government did not have the numbers in the House of Lords to have the Treaty of Utrecht ratified by Parliament. Queen Anne, acting on the advice of her Ministers, appointed additional members of the House of Lords to allow the Treaty to be ratified.

1893 — Full suffrage rights for women are achieved

A petition was signed by one quarter of all the European (non Maori) women in New Zealand and was presented to Parliament.

Because of the problem of lack of time the organisers had, the petition was not circulated through all districts of New Zealand. However, the number who signed was widely recognised as a significant expression of opinion by New Zealand women. In some urban areas between one half and three quarters of all women signed.

Parliament passed a law that resulted in New Zealand adult women (including Maori women) being granted the franchise for both Parliamentary and local government elections.

The law was passed a matter of a few weeks before the 1893 Elections. New Zealand became the first country in the world to achieve universal adult franchise 1. Also a woman was elected Mayor of Onehunga.

1893 -1920 — New Zealand statistics used to help women in other countries

During this period women had a separate electoral roll from men. This enabled the Government to compile separate voter turnout figures for women and men. These figures (which were published as part of the electoral statistics in the New Zealand Government Official Yearbooks) showed election voter turnout to be virtually the same for men and women. This information would have been useful to provide support for the arguments women in other Western countries (such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Britain) were making to secure the franchise for themselves. By 1920 women had secured the franchise in a number of democratic Western countries.

1893 — First person of Maori descent elected to Parliament to represent non Maori electors

James Carroll (a member of Parliament who had an Irish father and a Maori mother, and who previously represented one of the Maori electorates, chose to stand in a General electorate and was elected). In 1896 he became the first person of Maori descent to be a Government Minister holding responsibility for Government Departments, and the first such person to be conferred with a knighthood. He served as a Government minister for a number of years and was twice Acting Prime Minister when the Prime Minister was on official business outside of New Zealand.

1897 — Ethel Benjamin is New Zealand’s first woman lawyer

Ethel Benjamin became the first woman in New Zealand to graduate with a law degree and be admitted as a lawyer to the New Zealand bar. Much of her work involved representing the interests of women and children. In the course of her work she highlighted the problem of violence by husbands against wives. At that time such violence was seen as socially acceptable. (Like both Dr Emily Siedeberg and Sir Julius Vogel, Ethel Benjamin was a member of the Dunedin Jewish community).

1899 — New Zealand decides not to join Australia.

New Zealand decided against joining the proposed federation of Australian colonies that would in the following year form the new national state of Australia.

1901 — Control of the Cook Islands transferred to New Zealand

Britain formally transfered control of the Cook Islands to New Zealand, and the Cook Islands became in effect a colony of New Zealand.

NOTE The indigenous inhabitants of the Cook Islands are Maori, but speak a different dialect from those in New Zealand.

1901 — The North Island has more people than the South Island.

New Zealand has two main islands — the South Island and the North Island.

During the 19th century the South Island had a larger population than the North Island.

In 1901 this trend was reversed — ie from 1901 onwards there were more people living in the North Island than in the South Island.

By 2001 — ie 100 years later — almost three quarters of the population of New Zealand was to be found in the North Island.

The South Island has continued to have population growth and strong economic growth throughout most of the 20th century. However during that same period there has been a consistent pattern of the North Island having stronger population growth than the South Island.

1900s — three Maori political leaders emerge to foster Maori development

Three Maori university graduates (Maui Pomare and Peter Buck who were physicians, and Apirana Ngata who was a lawyer) formed a loose grouping known as “the Young Maori Party”. During the following decades these three men at separate times became influential as members of Parliament and as Government Ministers in various New Zealand Governments. Peter Buck later became an anthropologist and the Director of the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, a leading centre for study of Polynesian culture. (New Zealand Maori are of Polynesian ethnic origin) Buck, Pomare and Ngata were hugely influential in fostering economic development amongst the Maori people.

The early 1900s were also a time when the population of the Maori people started to increase. Prior to that time the Maori population had been in decline because of the effect of infectious diseases, poor living conditions and low social and political morale. From the 1900s a number of circumstances combined to reverse those trends and Maori population has continued to grow in all subsequent decades throughout the 20th century.

1905 — New Zealand’s probable only 20th century racially inspired murder

Joe Kum Yung, an elderly Chinese resident of Wellington, who had lived in New Zealand for most of his life, was gunned down by a person of known white British supremacist views. The victim was not known to his murderer. He had been chosen at random to be murdered, only because he was Chinese. The murderer, who had himself only been in New Zealand for two years prior to the murder, turned himself in and was charged and found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death by the New Zealand Chief Justice Sir Robert Stout. However the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment to be spent in a mental hospital in top secure confinement. This was because the Government advised the Governor-General to exercise the prerogative of mercy.

Many years later (in 1952) the murderer died at Seacliff Mental Hospital north of Dunedin.

1907 — New Zealand becomes a ‘British Dominion’.

New Zealand ceased to be a colony and was proclaimed as a dominion. The position of Governor changed to be Governor-General, but in all other respects remained as a political figurehead. Canada, Newfoundland, South Africa and Australia all became British Dominions at this time

1914 — Failure of reform of the Upper House of the New Zealand Parliament

Legislation was passed to reform the Upper House and make it an elected part of the New Zealand Parliament. The intention was the Upper House would be elected by a form of proportional representation known as Single Transferrable Vote (STV). [STV was the form of electoral system that since 1922 has been used by the Irish Free State later known as the Republic of Ireland.]

However the legislation to reform the Upper House of the New Zealand Parliament was then deferred because of the First World War and then in 1918 it was repealed.

Failure in New Zealand to have reform of its Upper House was the ultimate cause of the Upper House being abolished in 1950. This was to leave New Zealand with its elected Lower House as a unicameral (one chamber) Parliament (see below for developments in 1950).

1914 — 1918 First World War.

New Zealand troops — including New Zealand Maori troops — served in a number of armed conflicts in Turkey, the Middle East and in northern France. In some instances individual New Zealanders went to Britain and enlisted as members of the British armed forces. This was particularly so in the case of New Zealanders who wanted to become airmen in the British Royal Flying Corps or British Fleet Air Arm.

By the end of the war 20 percent of all New Zealand males of military age had served in some sort of military capacity as part of the war effort. Most of these men had served outside of New Zealand in military combat.

In 1916 conscription of men for military services was implemented — based principally on age and marital status. This was ended in 1918. However it was then reintroduced in 1939 for the period of the Second World War and lasted until 1945. It was then reintroduced in 1949 (at a time when New Zealand was not at war). It then lasted in various formats until 1972 (see 1972 below). One of the effects of military conscription for men was to exacerbate and strengthen the conventional social views of that time about gender roles.

According to those views at that time men and women were thought of as having separate and unequal gender based roles. Women were valued because of their potential as wives and mothers, and men were valued because of their potential as armed combatants in war. Thus men were seen (some would describe it) as “cannon folder”. Women were seen as those responsible for producing the next generation of “cannon folder”.

1914 — New Zealand invades and takes control of the German colony of Western Samoa.

This represented arguably the first and most successful New Zealand effort of the entire 1914-1918 war. The German colonial authority in Western Samoa surrendered without a shot being fired.

1918 — New Zealand and the League of Nations

.

New Zealand became a founder member of the League of Nations. New Zealand was awarded formal control of Western Samoa as a League of Nations ‘Mandated Territory’. In 1945 with the formal demise of the League of Nations and the establishment of the United Nations, Western Samoa became a United Nations Trust Territory under New Zealand control.

1919 — Women are able to be Members of the New Zealand Parliament

Women were granted the right to be Members of the New Zealand Parliament (The British Parliament in 1918 had granted the right of women to be members of its Parliament and had also granted the right for women aged 30 years and older to be able to vote. It was only in 1928 that women in Britain were accorded the same rights as men — able to vote from age 21.)

Women in New Zealand had to wait until 1926 to able to be Justices of the Peace, and it was not until 1942 that they were allowed to sit as member of juries in criminal Court proceedings.

1921 — Princess Te Puea Herangi inspires the re-establishment of Turangawaewae Marae

Princess Te Puea, (born 1883 and died 1952) was a granddaughter of the second Maori King. She was a major inspiration for the revitilisastion of the Maori King movement and its contribution towards the 20th century Maori renaisssance.

Her action in reestablishing Turangawaewae Marae was an important initial step as part of her long life work in advancing the interests of the Kingitangi (the Maori King Movement), as well as the interests of Maori people in general.

1922 — Chatham Islanders are accorded the same rights as other New Zealanders

The Chatham Islands are declared to be part of the Lyttelton Electorate and the Western Maori Electorate. The reason why the Chathams are included in both electorates is because there are Maori Chatham Islanders (from at least three tribes — including the remanents of the Moriori people) plus European Chatham Islanders. Previously the Chatham Islands had not been part of any Parliamentary electorate. Thus, by this action the New Zealand electoral franchise is extended to Chatham Islanders. [The Chatham Islands had been part of New Zealand since 1842 — see above.]

The delay in giving the franchise to Chatham Islanders is seen as an example of Government neglect of the Chatham Island community — rather than a deliberate act of discrimination. Three years later (in 1925) the Chatham Islanders were permitted to establish their own local authority. In 1936 that local authority was then given unique local taxation powers — by means of a special Act of Parliament (the Chatham Islands County Council Empowering Act). These powers enabled it to collect dues on goods imported from other parts of New Zealand, and on goods exported to other parts of New Zealand. This was in recognition that land values were too low to support a system of local property taxation, and also the remoteness of the Chathams from the rest of New Zealand made this alternative taxation system possible.

1927 — the Sim Commission — 1st attempt to deal with Maori historical grievances

The Sim Commission of Inquiry (previously constituted by the Government) reported to the Government on the land confiscations that took place directly as a result of the New Zealand Civil Wars of the 1860s and 1870s. The Commission recommended that compensation be paid to certain tribes in the Waikato and in Taranaki. Some compensation was paid.

The Government of that time regarded the issue as settled. However the Maori tribes who received the compensation regarded it as grossly insufficient. These tribes also regarded the terms of reference the Sim Commission had operated under as being grossly restrictive.

1931 — The Statute of Westminister enacted by the British Parliament

The British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster. The statute formally according independence to the dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The statute allowed each dominion to itself adopt the Statute of Westminster for itself thus determining when it will apply as domestic law in that dominion. Canada and South Africa quickly adopted the Statute of Westminster followed by Australia. Newfoundland eventually (after the Second World War) joined Canada. New Zealand delayed adopting the Statute of Westminster until 1947 (see below).

1933 — First Woman Member of Parliament in New Zealand

Elizabeth McCombs elected as first woman Member of Parliament at a by-election caused by the death of her husband (who had been the Member of Parliament for the Lyttleton Electorate). She died in 1935 and her son was elected in her place.

1934 — The poll tax imposed on Chinese who enter New Zealand is no longer collected.

The poll tax on Chinese immigrants had first been imposed in 1881. The decision to cease levying this tax was initially intended as a temporary measure, but in 1944 the poll tax was abolished.

1935 — Consequences for Maori people from the election of New Zealand’s first Labour Party Government.

The new Labour Government moved to reduce and eliminate discrimination against Maori people. Prior to that time Maori people had been excluded from entitlement to unemployment benefits, social welfare benefits and state provided housing for the less well off. The excuse had previously been that Maori all had tribal affiliations, and therefore had alternative support mechanisms in place. The Labour Party was in power from 1935 — 1949, 1958 — 1960, 1972 — 1975, 1984 — 1990 and has been again since 1999. The National Party was in power during the intervening periods.

NOTE From 1935 to 1996 all Governments are single party governments with either Labour or National as the single party of Government. From 1996 all Governments have been coalition governments, with either Labour or National as the leading party in coalition with one or more minor parties.

1936 — Alliance of the Ratana movement with the Labour Party

The Ratana Church (named after its founder T W Ratana) had grown from its inception in 1922 and had become overtly political in nature. One of its key objectives of T W Ratana was to see the Treaty of Waitangi restored to its original position prior to the New Zealand Civil Wars. In this T W Ratana had the support of many Maori who were not subscribed to the teachings of the Ratana Church. By 1936 the Ratana Movement controlled two of the four Maori Parliamentary Electorates. An alliance was offered by the Ratana Movement to the Labour Party and it was accepted. A large delegation from the Ratana Movement meet the Labour Prime Minister and the alliance was cemented in place as follows.

Ratana … placed on the table before him [Michael Joseph Savage, the Prime Minister] four objects: a potato, a broken gold watch, a greenstone tiki and a huia feather. … The potato was the ordinary Maori, needing his land. The watch was the law relating to the lands of the Maori. Only the law could repair the law. The greenstone tiki stood for the traditions and mana [spiritual authority] of the Maori. And the huia feather, the sign of a paramount chief, would be worn by Mr Savage if he would look after his Maori people. The Prime Minister accepted the proposal. 2

As a result of this the two Ratana Members of Parliament representing the Western Maori and Southern Maori electorates became part of the Labour Party Parliamentary Caucus. In the Parliamentary General Election in 1938 the Northern Maori Electorate returned a Labour-Ratana Member of Parliament. In 1943 Sir Apirana Ngata was defeated in his Eastern Maori electorate by a Labour-Ratana candidate. From then on all four Maori electorates were held for several decades by the Labour-Ratana alliance.

1936 — Secondary education (where it is provided by state secondary schools) becomes free of charge.

While it only at a much later stage that the school leaving age was raised to age 15 and then age 16, the provision of free secondary education meant increasing numbers of New Zealand parents were encouraged to allow their children some secondary education. It was not until 1960 that free textbooks were provided at state secondary school.

1936 — New Zealand stands up for international justice.

New Zealand as a member of the League of Nations protested against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia (one of Africa’s then only two independent countries). New Zealand also protested against the interference by Germany and Italy in Spanish affairs. The Spanish republic was at that time faced with a civil war instigated by its armed forces aided by the armed forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Both these protests by New Zealand were looked upon with disfavour by Britain. At that time Britain was involved in a policy of trying to appease Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

1939 — Chinese in New Zealand start to be recognised as an integral part of New Zealand society.

Chinese men who have wives and children in China were allowed to bring them to New Zealand. This is because of the dangers they faced in China as a result of the Japanese invasion of China.

This humanitarian gesture was seen by Chinese as marking a major change in attitude by the New Zealand Government towards the New Zealand Chinese community.

1939 — 1945 Second World War

During this period New Zealand became a prospective target for a likely Japanese invasion. This was particularly so after Japan attacked the United States in 1941. Thus, during a time when New Zealand armed forces were in the Middle East to help defeat German and Italian Axis aggression, United States armed forces were welcomed into New Zealand to help defend New Zealand against Japanese aggression.

1940 — New Zealand centennial

The celebration of the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Sir Apirana Ngata — who was still a Member of Parliament, but not a member of the governing Labour Party — was an influential advisor to the Government on Maori protocol and other issues. He was important in helping to ensure the success of these celebrations.

1940s-1960s — Maori migration from rural areas into towns and cities

Increasing numbers of Maori people moved from rural areas and became urban dwellers. This was at a time when there was full employment in New Zealand. The Government placed a heavy emphasis on avoiding the creation of Maori urban ghettos in New Zealand towns and cities. In this respect the Government was largely successful. One of the by-products of this policy is the increasing rates of intermarriage between Maori and people of other races — especially from the 1960s onwards.

1941 — Parliament decides to extends its current term because of the War

As mentioned with respect to 1852 the New Zealand Parliament was established in 1852 with its Lower House (the elected house) having a maximum electoral term of three years. This meant that every three years there would have to be a General Parliamentary Election for a new Parliament. In 1934 Parliament had extended its own life by a further year — because of the ongoing effects of the Great Depression. That action had been unpopular and had not been supported by all of the parties in the Parliament. In 1917 Parliament had extended its own life by a further year because of the First World War. That one-year extention had been widely supported. In 1941 Parliament decided to extend its own life because of the Second World War. The Parliamentary General Election that was meant to take place in 1941 did not take place until 1943. By 1943 the War was still going. But by then it was clear the Allies (of which New Zealand was a part) would ultimately win the war against Germany, Italy and Japan.

NOTE Since 1943 all New Zealand Parliaments have kept to the maximum three-year rule. On two occasions (in 1951 and 1984) the Government decided to call a Parliamentary General Election before the end of the normal three-year period. All other Parliaments in New Zealand have been for three years — and no longer.

1943 — Visit to New Zealand from Eleanor Roosevelt (personal emissary of the President of the United States)

New Zealand was visited by Eleanor Roosevelt (the personal emissary of her husband US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). She made an immensely positive impression. This resulted in New Zealand feeling that it has a strong affinity with the United States.

Because Eleanor Roosevelt was an active feminist, her visit also served to encourage New Zealand women — particularly those New Zealand women who themselves were feminists. The highlight of her New Zealand visit was a meeting in Wellington’s largest picture cinema, at which only women were present. The meeting was chaired by Janet Fraser (wife of NZ Prime Minister Peter Fraser) who herself was an active feminist.

1944 — New Zealand allies itself with Australia

New Zealand and Australia signed the Canberra Pact. The Pact was called the Canberra Pact because New Zealand sends representatives to the Australian capital (Canberra) to sign it. The Pact commits New Zealand and Australia to work together.

The signing of this Pact with Australia marks a major shift in New Zealand foreign policy. Prior to that time the official view of New Zealand was that New Zealand’s prime link was with Britain and via that (indirectly) with other British Dominions.

1945 — New Zealand as a founder member of the United Nations.

New Zealand became a founder member of the United Nations and played an important role in helping to establish the Trusteeship Council — which became an important UN mechanism for decolonisation. New Zealand and Australia also tried (unsuccessfully) to have the Security Council able to function without the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China being able to exercise a veto.

1946-1949 — 2nd attempt to deal with historical injustices against Maori

Some attempts were made by the Government to settle longstanding Maori tribal grievances concerning 19th century Maori land confiscation, and other forms of unjust alienation of Maori land. Although in hindsight these attempts were not seen as successful, they led to the formation of financially independently viable Maori tribal trust boards. From then on these tribal trust boards provided more politically effectively advocacy on behalf of Maori concerning their tribal interests.

1946 — Legislation recognises Maori taonga

New Zealand Geographic Board established under its own Act with membership representing particular interests — including Maori members to represent Maori interests. The retention of original Maori place names is one of the responsibilities vested by law with the Board. While there was no overt emphasis at this time on the Treaty of Waitangi, the establishment of this mandate for the Board meant there is implicit recognition that original Maori place names are part of the ‘taonga’ of the Maori people recognised by the Treaty of Waitangi. This law also recognised and deemed valid the work of the previous “Honorary Geographic Board of New Zealand’.

1946 — Maori in New Zealand no longer referred to as ‘natives”

Use of the term “native” was dropped from official Government communications. It is replaced by the term “Maori” — the term the Maori people use for themselves.

NOTE The plural form of the word “Maori” is “Maori” — not Maoris.

1947 — First woman as a Government Minister

Mabel Howard, had been elected as a Member of Parliament in 1943, and was the second woman member of Parliament whose election to Parliament was entirely a result of her own political networking. [Other women Members of Parliament had benefited from having been either the widow or the daughter of a previous serving Member of Parliament. ] In 1947 Mabel Howard was appointed to serve as Minister of Health and Child Welfare, and she served in that position until 1949 when the Labour Party Government, (of which she was a part), was defeated. She then served as a Cabinet Minister in the Labour Government of 1958 — 1960.

1947 — New Zealand accepts the Statute of Westminster

New Zealand accepted the Statute of Westminster — thus formally recognising itself as a nation completely independent of Britain. This required the development of New Zealand citizenship law distinct from Britain (see below). However New Zealand continued to remain psychologically close to Britain. Britain also remained New Zealand’s main export market and the main source for its imports.

1948 — Married women’s rights recognised in new citizenship laws

The passing of new citizenship laws provided the opportunity for the Government to rectify an anomaly in the law that had applied prior to this time. Prior to 1948 a New Zealand woman automatically lost her citizenship if she married a man who was a foreigner. The new law meant that noone could lose their citizenship merely because of marriage to a foreigner.

1950 — abolition of the Upper House of Parliament.

The new National Party Government instructed the Governor-General to appoint enough new members of the Upper House to ensure the Upper House could vote for its own abolition. These new members were referred to as “the execution squad”. The then Prime Minister (Sidney Holland) promised there would be a new replacement Upper House but this promise was never honoured. From this time on the New Zealand Parliament has been comprised of one elected chamber — the former Lower House.

NOTE. The appointment of additional members of the Upper House “the execution squad” in the circumstances described above was absolutely constitutional. (See the comments above relating to 1893).

1951 — New Zealand concludes an alliance with the United States

New Zealand concluded a treaty for a defensive alliance with Australia and the USA. This alliance (known as ANZUS from the initials of the three countries) was the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy until 1984/85.

Although ANZUS was seen by the United States as an integral part of its strategy of building up alliances against international communism, New Zealand saw the alliance primarily as a guarantee against a possible resurgent Japan. Peace treaties had been signed by Japan the previous year with all its previous enemies (including USA, Australia and New Zealand).

1951 — establishment of the Maori Women’s Welfare League

The Maori Women’s Welfare League was New Zealand’s first national Maori organisation, and for many years its most influential.

1955-58 — the Government acts to reform the New Zealand Police

The Police Commissioner resigned. The Government gave him a very significant financial inducement to get him to go. This is because he had significant amounts of money he could not explain how he came to have. The suspicion was it was proceeds of bribes from people involved in operating illegal gambling. The Government then appointed Sam Barnett (who was the Chief Executive of the Department of Justice and a former Judge) as the acting Controller of Police. Sam Barnett in effect had to carry the burden of doing two full time jobs. Under his stewardship there was a significantly higher than average rate of resignations, dismissals and retirements of Police personnel.

This was welcomed by the Government. This was because the Government wanted to see the Police modernised and freed of any suspicion of corruption. Part of this process of change also included significant additional funding, a significant investment in Police cadet training and Police officer training, plus a revision and re-enactment of the law setting out the organisation of the Police. The Police Act 1958 (which is still in force) specifies the only qualification for the position of Police Commissioner is that the person is a morally “fit and proper person”. The person need not be a police officer or previously serving police officer.

The Government’s actions from 1955 to 1958 were strongly supported by the public and the news media. Moreover the actions taken at that time by Sam Barrnett and others have had a positive long-term impact on New Zealand’s public sector ethics.

1956 — the Suez crisis — why did New Zealand refuse to take part in the Israeli, French and British invasion of Egypt ?

The following is the text of paras 23 to 27 of the New Zealand Naval Board Report to Parliament for the year ending 31 March 19573.

  1. The cruiser ROYALIST was commissioned at Plymouth in the United Kingdom on 17 May 1956.
  2. After undergoing sea trials, the ship sailed from the United Kingdom on 16 July for the Mediterranean to undergo a period of exercises with units of the Royal Navy.
  3. During this exercise period, the ship visited Marseilles and Naples. While at Naples a representative party attending the unveiling by Lord Alexander of the Commonwealth War Memorial at Cassino.
  4. When the Suez crisis arose, ROYALIST was in the Mediterranean but was not committed to operations against Egypt.
  5. On 10 November 1956, the ship sailed for New Zealand by way of Freetown, Simonstown, Mauritius, Fremantle and Hobart, arriving at Auckland on 20 December 1956.

This obliquely worded piece of text is remarkable for what it DOES NOT say.

Firstly — and probably of minor importance — is that the ship New Zealand took responsibility for was a second-hand naval ship. It had seen extensive wartime service with the British navy from 1943 onwards. Its so-called “commissioning” in 1956 was merely a handover from the British navy to the New Zealand navy.

Secondly — and of far more importance — is that Britain wanted New Zealand to have this ship “the ROYALIST” join the naval attack that Britain and France were planning against Egypt. What in addition is also now publicly known is New Zealand Government’s own diplomatic advisors were strongly advising against New Zealand becoming involved in the Suez crisis. This is documented in Malcolm Templeton’s book “Ties of Blood and Empire : NZ’s involvement in Middle Eastern Defence & the Suez Crisis 1947-57”. [Malcolm Templeton is a retired diplomat who had unrestricted access to New Zealand’s diplomatic records for the writing of this book.] The book “Suez” by Keith Kylie also mentions documents sourced from British Government archives. In so doing this latter book provides a broader international context.

Throughout the 1950s New Zealand continued to publicly express loyalty to Britain. Their feelings were summed up by the words of a previous New Zealand Prime Minister who had said in 1939 at the start of World War II “where Britain goes, we go”. Many New Zealanders in the 1950s were still affectionately referring to Britain either as “the mother country” or as “home”. Many people who were using those terms had always lived in New Zealand. Moreover some of these people who expressed these sentiments had parents and grandparents who had also always lived in New Zealand.

Also at that time Britain was New Zealand’s largest export market, and most of New Zealand’s imports came from Britain. This was also a source of national pride for New Zealand.

Yet in spite of all this, at some point in time (either before or during the invasion), the New Zealand Government made a decision to withdraw its naval vessel (the cruiser ROYALIST) from British naval command.

While the New Zealand Government’s records show part of the story they do not sufficiently explain why the New Zealand Government took the decision it did.

The New Zealand Government of that time did not always follow the advice of its public servants. No Government ever does. And even when a Government makes a decision that is consistent with the written advice it has received, that does not mean that the Government agrees with that advice. There can be other reasons. Sometimes those other reasons are never written down.

In the case of this decision there is evidence that the Prime Minister discussed this matter with his other Government Ministers in at least one of their regular weekly Cabinet meetings. Most Cabinet decisions are documented by way of “Cabinet Minutes” which set down the decision that has been taken and “Cabinet papers” which contain prior written advice prepared by Government officials and signed up from a portfolio Minister. However, some matters are discussed by Cabinet as “oral items” — ie there is no written papers by way of prior advice and sometimes (very occasionally) no written decision. In the case of the Government’s decision on this matter it would appear it was discussed and agreed as an “oral item” — with no documentation as to why the decision was made.

My view is there are three possible reasons — any of which might have influenced the New Zealand Government at the time the Suez invasion was planned and was taking place. These three possible reasons are:

My personal view is the Suez crisis marked an important turning point in the development of New Zealand.

Previously New Zealand had been a reasonably compliant satellite of Britain.

However the events in 1956 showed that New Zealand was now starting to become a nation with its own role in the world community of nations.

1960 — Apartheid in South Africa impinges on New Zealand

Widespread protest against the decision of the New Zealand Rugby Union to exclude Maori from the New Zealand representative rugby team to tour South Africa. Maori rugby players had been chosen to represent New Zealand in international sports fixtures in other countries, but not to tour in South Africa (out of deference to the South African Government policy of apartheid).

1960 — 1st Equal Pay Act

First equal pay Act. (This only applied to women employed in the public sector including schools and hospitals).

1960/61 — Voices for better race relations between Maori and non-Maori

In 1960 there was the publication in Britain by William Heinemann Ltd of Noel Hillard’s novel entitled “Maori Girl”. This novel, which was widely read in New Zealand, was a frank account of racial prejudice suffered by a young Maori woman who shifts from the country to the city. New Zealanders at that time commonly believed “New Zealand has the best race relations in the world”. This novel pointed out New Zealand did have race-relations issues that needed to be openly acknowledged. The same point is made in Bruce Mason’s first published drama entitled “The Pohutukawa Tree”. This drama, also published in 1960, was for many years the most well known piece of New Zealand drama. Both Noel Hillard and Bruce Mason went on to publish other literary works (novels and drama) that reinforced the message.

In 1961 there was widespread public debate triggered by the new incoming National Government’s publication of “the Hunn Report”. That report by Sir Jack Hunn (which had been commisssioned by the previous Labour Government which was defeated in 1960) identified the need for the Government to work to improve social, eduational and health opportunties for Maori people. Also at that time Professor David Ausabel (a United States educationalist who was in New Zealand in 1957 and 1958 as a Fulbright Scholar) published a definitive and very frank analysis of New Zealand race relations. His book, based on his own original research in New Zealand, was entitled “Maori Youth”. His conclusion was that racial prejudice was a major barrier to Maori educational achievement.

1961 — New Zealand formally abolishes the death penalty for the crime of murder.

Parliament passed a revised and consolidated law on crime — the Crimes Act 1961. [This law — which has been amended since — still remains the basic law in New Zealand on what constitutes a crime.] The new National Party Government, which had been elected in 1961, was committed to retaining the death penalty for the crime of murder. However the Minister of Justice in the National Government (Ralph Hannan) wanted Parliament to abolish the death penalty for the crime of murder.

[From 1936 to 1949 there had been no death sentences carried out. This was because, although the death sentence had been imposed, the Labour Government from 1936 to 1941 had at each occasion advised the Governor-General to exercise the prerogative of mercy and commute any death sentence that was imposed in favour of a life imprisonment sentence. Capital punishment for murder was then abolished by Act of Parliament in 1941.

However in 1950 capital punishment was then reintroduced as the penalty for murder when Parliament passed another Act of Parliament to revoke the Act it had passed in 1941. [This change occurred as a result of the 1949 Parliamentary General Elections when the National Party replaced the Labour Party as the majority party in the Lower House of Parliament]. During the period 1950 to 1956 there were some death sentences carried out.

After the 1958 Parliamentary General Elections there was a resumption of the process of all commuting death sentences in favour of life imprisoment. This was because the Labour Party was again the majority party in Parliament and therefore there was a Labour Government.

NOTE On any such occasion when the Governor-General is so advised by the Government to exercise the prerogative of mercy he is of course obliged to follow that advice — in accordance with constitutional conventions (see comments above relating to 1893) ].

In 1961 Ralph Hannan (in his capacity as Minister of Justice) arranged for the Government to

The result was the new Crimes Bill was passed into law, but with the death penalty provisions for murder removed. All of the Labour Party Members of Parliament voted against the death penalty provisions. Also voting with them against the death penalty provisions were Ralph Hannan and six other National Party Members of Parliament. Thus there were enough Members of Parliament to be a majority in favour of abolishing the death penalty.

It should be noted that while there has never been any treason trial in New Zealand or anyone charged with treason, the crime of treason did have the death penalty attached to it. The same applied in the case of the crime of treachery, which is a crime that members of the Armed Forces could be charged with under the Armed Forces Discipline Act. No member of the New Zealand armed forces has ever been so charged.

Because of the death penalty had continued for these two crimes, Parliament in 1989 unanimously passed the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act. This was done to ensure the death penality is completely removed from the laws of New Zealand.

1960s and early 1970s — significant immigration of Pacific peoples into New Zealand starts in this decade

From the 1970s onwards there was significant immigration of Pasifika (Pacific peoples otherwise known as Pacific Islanders). Cook Island Maori — who of course retained New Zealand citizenship under the form of self government granted in 1965 to the Cook Islands — retained right of free entry (see below). Other Pacific peoples — principally from Western Samoa and from the independent kingdom of Tonga — are subject to immigration controls.

1960s—1990s — New Zealand suffers significant low levels of economic growth relative to other comparable countries.

New Zealand at this time was almost exclusively an agricultural exporter. Although its exports had been highly sought after in the aftermath of the Second World War, it finds from the 1960s onwards its exports become increasingly shut out of other countries. This is because of protectionist trading policies on the part of most West European countries and the United States. Those trading policies in turn were the result of powerful farmer lobby groups in those countries. Because of this New Zealand suffered significant low levels of economic growth relative to a number of other comparable countries.

(See also the item “1984-86 — End of New Zealand’s alliance with the United States (USA) — see below .)

1962 — Western Samoa becomes independent

New Zealand granted independence to Western Samoa. Up until this time Western Samoa had been a UN Trustee territory under New Zealand control.

1962 — Establishment of the Ombudsman as a check on poor Government administration.

The Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) Act was passed. It was modelled directly on earlier Swedish legislation. The term “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word that is now part of the English language. Since 1962 there has been an avenue for complaint by ordinary people about decisions (or lack of decisions) made by Government and by Government officials as they affect ordinary people. [This legislation was re-enacted in 1975 as the Ombudsmen’s Act, as, by that time, there was need for more than one Ombudsman.] The Ombudsmen can undertake investigations on a very wide range of matters and demand documents and demand explanations on any matter that the Ombudsman considers needs his or her attention. The powers of the Ombudsman apply both in respect of central government and local government. (see also commentary on Official Information legislation passed in1982 — see below)

1963 — Britain decides to cut the umbilical cord

Britain declared its intention to join the European Common Market (later renamed the European Union). This intention — although not fulfilled until 1973 — influenced New Zealand. It did this by forcing New Zealand to think of itself as independent, and forcing it to diversify its export and import pattern of trading. This includes strategies to try and avoid being overly dependent on wool, skins, meat and dairy products as its principal exports.

1963 — Official recognition of New Zealand Muslim community

The New Zealand Government conducts a population census every five years. Everyone is required to answer all the questions — except for one question. The one question on the census questionnaire that does not have to be answered asks about that person’s religion. The person who is answering the other census questions can lawfully refuse to answer this question.

What the population census does show is that during the 1870s there were some Chinese gold miners who were Muslim. Later in the 1890s and 1900s there was small number of Muslims who had come to New Zealand from India. However numbers remained very small, so that 1945 there were 67 Muslims, and by the time of the 1961 population census the number of Muslims in New Zealand had risen to 260 (compared to New Zealand’s total population of 2.4 million people).

In 1959 the first Islamic prayer centre was established4, and in 1960 Maulana Ahmed Said Musa Patel was brought to New Zealand by the New Zealand Muslim community to become New Zealand’s first Imam. Then in 1963 (the year is 1382 AH in the Muslim calendar), the Auckland City Council gave the Muslim community a part of the Waikumete public cemetery in west Auckland as a place for Muslim burials.

1965 — Cook Islands become self-governing

Cook Islands became a self-governing state in association with New Zealand. What that meant in practice is that Cook Islanders retained New Zealand citizenship and the Cook Islands has full self government, but with New Zealand handling its foreign affairs and defence.

1971 — Race Relations Act — makes all forms of racial discrimination illegal.

The principal effect of this is to ensure there are avenues for complaint about acts of racial discrimination, and methods of dealing with them. [This legislation is at a later date subsumed into more general Human Rights legislation].

1971 — establishment of the South Pacific Forum

The South Pacific Forum was a grouping of Pacific Island states and micro-states plus New Zealand and Australia. Its first meeting was in 1971. This became very important to New Zealand in terms of wider international relationships.

In recent years the South Pacific Forum has been renamed ‘the Pacific Forum’, with a secretariat based in Fiji and with regular meetings at Prime Ministerial, Ministerial and government official levels. The Pacific Forum is still extremely important to New Zealand.

1973 — a further small move towards gender equality.

Abolition of military conscription (compulsory military training) for adult males. This removes an important argument that had been used by men during the 1950s and 1960s justifying discrimination against women.

1975 — International Year of Women and 2nd Equal Pay Act.

The second equal pay Act was passed and became law. (The concept of equal levels of remuneration for equal work was extended to all women in paid employment. As in other Western countries there are areas of paid employment where women predominant and other areas where they are poorly represented. Often the areas of work where women predominate tend not to be as well paid as the areas of work where men tend to predominate. However the 2nd Equal Pay Act has the effect of opening up more diverse work and career opportunities for women.

1975 — First move towards acknowledgement of rights for people with disabilities

Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act gave some limited recognition to the rights of people with disabilities — including relating to access to new buildings to which the public in general have access to. However the 1975 legislation did not include any effective administrative mechanisms to ensure compliance by architects and building owners.

1975 — A further attempt to deal with historical injustices against Maori

The settling up of the Waitangi Tribunal to hear grievances about alienation of Maori tribal property and treasures. Jurisdiction was only to apply to instances since 1975. The Tribunal was in addition given the power to investigate Government policies in relation to Maori to determine if there was any breach of the Treaty of Waitangi.

1975 — More flexibility re Maori franchise issues

From this date persons of Maori ancestry were able to choose which electoral roll they wish to be on. This option is exercised every five years following the five yearly General Population Census. This recognised that increasing levels of intermarriage between Maori and other ethnic groups meant the former approach devised in 1867 was no longer viable.

1976 — The ‘Fitzgerald versus Muldoon’ case is decided by the Courts

Following the Parliamentary General Election in Nov 1975, (which resulted in the defeat of the Labour Government), the new National Government decided, as a temporary measure, to suspend a law passed by the previous Parliament. This action was taken in the belief that it can be done, and needed to be done, pending the convening of the new elected Parliament which it was assumed would formally repeal the law.

Legal action to challenge this was taken by a low paid clerical worker (Paul Fitzgerald). The Courts found in Paul Fitzgerald’s favour - ie that this action in suspending the law was illegal. More particularly the Government’s suspension of the law was held to be in direct violation of the provisions of the New Zealand constitution that are held to exist by virtue of the UK Bill of Rights 1688. (See also commentary on the Imperial Laws Application Act 1988 below).

1981 — The Waitara case is decided by the Waitangi Tribunal

Important Waitangi Tribunal case was determined. It was seen as a precedent setting case (a landmark case). It granted redress to Maori at Waitara who had suffered loss of coastal seabed resources because of pollution from the outfall of a recently established petrochemical plant.

1981 — Apartheid in South Africa again impinges on New Zealand

Widespread social disruption. This was because of the decision to allow a South African representative rugby team to tour New Zealand. Disruption of the tour was seen by its opponents as helping to undermine the apartheid regime in South Africa.

1982 — Official Information Act

This law states that information held by Government (subject to some exceptions) must be disclosed on request, unless there is good reason to withhold it. The legislation mirrors the principles of the US Freedom of Information legislation and legislation in other countries. In the New Zealand situation if information is being withheld, and the person who made the request considers it should have been released, then the Ombudsman can investigate and make a recommendation that it be released. In terms of the law these recommendations can be ignored. But the practice of all successive Governments since 1982 has been to implement all Ombudsman recommendations on such matters.

In 1987 equivalent laws were passed by Parliament to apply the same approach to the release of official information held by local government.

1984 — New Zealand’s only political assassination.

The motive for this crime is still unknown but is almost certain to have been political in nature and therefore in the nature of an assassination. In March 2004 Ernie Abbott (who was a retired unpaid volunteer building caretaker at the Wellington City Trades Union building) was preparing for a meeting of senior trade union officials. In the course of his work he picked up a suitcase — and was killed by a parcel bomb. Whether he was the intended victim or whether it was one of the trade union officials who was to be at the meeting later that day is not known

This murder became for the New Zealand Police one of what are only a very small number of unsolved murders. As with other unsolved murders the Police file on this case remains open.

1984 — Establishment of the role of Minister of Woman’s Affairs

Following the election of a new Labour Government in New Zealand, the position of Minister of Women’s Affairs is established as a recognised government portfolio. This is followed by the later establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to advise on issues relevant to women and the need for them to achieve gender equality with men.

1984-1986 — End of New Zealand’s alliance with the United States (USA)

Following the election of a new Labour Government in New Zealand, New Zealand antagonised the USA by declaring itself “nuclear free”. New Zealand ceased to be regarded by the USA and Australia as a functioning member of the ANZUS alliance that had been concluded in 1951 (see above).

There were a variety of motivations on both sides for the break in the alliance. The motivations on the part of the US Government have never been fully explained. However on the New Zealand side there were the explicit motivations and the implicit motivations.

The explicit motivations for New Zealand were clear. However remote the likelihood of a nuclear accident in a New Zealand port from a US warship might be, if it happened, the US would impose a complete trade embargo against New Zealand’s food exports — which comprise the majority of New Zealand’s exports.

My own personal views are that the implicit motivations for this breakdown in the alliance relate to New Zealand’s understanding of the meaning of loyalty.

In traditional terms New Zealand had always seen military alliances in terms of mutual loyalty. This approach had been an integral part of the way that New Zealand had related to Britain in the years from 1840 to 1951. However (in my personal view) it was questionable whether the United States Government had understood New Zealand’s wish to see an alliance based on mutual loyalty. The enormous political strength of the US farm lobby in US politics and its influence in making the USA a protectionist agricultural trading nation meant (in my personal view) that the USA was perceived of by many New Zealander people as being very disloyal to New Zealand. Also the United States had provided massive assistance via the Marshall Aid Plan during the late 1940s to various West European countries. This aid had resulted in those Western European countries (Britain being the only exception) being able also to indulge in protectionist agricultural trade policies against New Zealand.

Also there was a realisation that the USA had in the previous 45 years lavished huge amounts of foreign aid (including military aid) on corrupt dictatorships and rogue states, but had provided no foreign aid to New Zealand which was suffering because of US protectionist agricultural trade policies.

In 1985 the French Government carried out an act of terrorism in New Zealand, which the USA deliberately refused to condem. The action of the US Government in not condemning this act of terrorism further alienated New Zealand from the USA.

In spite of the breakdown of the military alliance between the USA and New Zealand, New Zealand continues to maintain a friendly relationship with the USA. This has included several instances in the last 15 years where senior New Zealand experts in rural firefighting have gone to help the United States. In so doing they have been able to play an important role for as rural fire field commanders in dealing with major US forest fires and major US grassland fires.

1985 — A still further attempt to deal with historical injustices against Maori

Waitangi Tribunal jurisdiction widened to enable matters of Maori grievances between 1840 and 1975 to be determined — including matters relating to confiscation of Maori tribal land during the 19th century. The action restored the Treaty of Waitangi to the important role it had had between 1840 and 1860. The Tribunal and its work start a process of recognising those confiscations and other forms of land alienation were unjust.

This process of research, issuing Tribunal determinations, and then the relevant Maori tribal authority and the Government negotiating compensation, is still ongoing. Some major settlements have been reached, but many smaller claims still need to be dealt with.

1986 — Homosexual law reform

Homosexual Law Reform Act decriminalised sexual acts between consenting adult males. (NOTE Sexual acts between consenting adult women were never a criminal offence under New Zealand or British law).

1987 — Maori Language Act

The Maori Language Act established New Zealand Maori as New Zealand’s second official language. In so doing Parliament was influenced by the demands made by Maori that their language is a “taonga” (treasure) referred to in the Treaty of Waitangi. There was also concern that there were increasing numbers of Maori people who lack adequate language competency in their ancestral language. From this time on there were concerted efforts made to encourage the use of the New Zealand Maori language. This included the establishment of the Maori Language Commission as a Government funded body to encourage the use of New Zealand Maori.

It is interesting to note this political development in New Zealand was also influenced by efforts being made in Ireland and in Wales to preserve their indigneous languages.

1987 — Maori tribal development policies are initiated

The Department of Maori Affairs recommended to the Government that Maori programmes should be tribally based. The Government later agrees that programmes for Maori social advancement should, as far as is practical, be based on Maori tribal structures.

1987 — the start of political instability in Fiji

1987 marked the first political coup de etat in Fiji. There has since been another coup de etat. In the period from the late 1980s onwards people of ethnic Indian origin in Fiji whose parents or grandparents had previously migrated from India to Fiji have tried where possible to migrate to other countries. Because of political and racial unrest in Fiji, these people no longer felt welcome in Fiji. New Zealand has been one of the countries where Indian migrants from Fiji have settled.

1988 — Clarification of the place of British law in New Zealand

Imperial Laws Application Act clarified which United Kingdom Acts of Parliament (or parts of Acts of Parliament) still apply in New Zealand as being New Zealand law. These include major pieces of British constitutional law — such as the key provisions of the Magna Carta of 1297, the Statute of Westminister of 1275, the Bill of Rights 1688 and the Habeas Corpus Act. (For an explanation of what is meant by ‘habeas corpus’ please see the material relating to the year 2001 which deals with the reenactment and update of this law.)

1988/89 — the system of local government in New Zealand is reformed

Legislation was passed by Parliament in 1988 allowing the Government appointed Local Government Commission to swiftly undertake a massive consolidation and reform of local government.

The local government elections in October 1989, which followed on from this process, meant the new two-tiered structure comprised of regional councils and district councils was firmly consolidated into place. (City councils remained as a form of district council, and the Chatham Islands retained its own local council — which has both district council and regional council status).

1990 — New Zealand Bill of Rights Act

This had been intended as a formal catelogue of various human rights that had for many years being recognised as existing in New Zealand, and to affirm New Zealand’s public commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The intention of Parliament in passing the law was that it would act as a checklist that could be used by Parliament itself in determining the merits of future laws.

However the Courts have used this Act to determine if in particular instances various Government authorities — such as the Police — have breached the human rights of particular individuals.

The most significant Court case arising from the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is “Simpson versus the Attorney-General” — otherwise known as Baigent’s case — which was reported on in the published law reports in 1994. This Court case resulted in the Police having to pay substantial compensation to the estate of an elderly woman. Before her death she has been in her home and suffered emotional harm from having her home searched pursuant to a Police search warrant. When the Police arrived they realised the search warrant had mistakenly been filled out for the wrong address. However they insisted on searching the house, even those they knew that Mrs Baigent was innocent and they (the Police) knew they should have been searching at a house at a different address.

1991 — Greater recognition of the rights of people with disabilities

The Building Act gave greater recognition for rights for people with disabilities with respect to requirements re access and use of buildings. 5 Compliance with these requirements was mainstreamed as part of overall building law compliance.

1993 — Human Rights Act give recognition of equal rights irrespective of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability.

This law largely represented a consolidation of previously existing law on prevention of discrmination. The only significant differences with what applied prior to 1993 is that sexual orientation and disability now have the benefit of anti discrimination in almost all areas of law.

1993 — First Pasifika (Pacific Islander) Member of Parliament.

The 1993 Parliamentary General Election resulted in Taito Phillip Field becoming New Zealand’s first Pasifika Member of Parliament. He was joined in Parliament in 1996 by another Pasifika person.

1996 — New electoral voting system comes into operation.

Since 1996 there has been a new system of Parliamentary elections based on a system of proportional representation, known as “Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), which is broadly similary to the German electoral system. (The MMP system provides for two categories of elected Members of Parliament. There are Members of Parliament elected to represent electoral districts (electorates) as well as people who are elected to Parliament because they are on an authorised Party list and that Party has gained a significant number of votes in a Parliamentary General Election.

The major difference between the New Zealand system and the German system is that — unlike New Zealand — Germany does not have any special representation for its Sorb/ Wend indigenous minority. [The Sorbs (Wends) are people who have lived in Germany from before the time that Germans first migrated to settle south of the Baltic in what is now Germany.] New Zealand however has separate Maori electorates with Maori able to choose whether to be an elector for a Maori electorate or an elector for a General Electorate.

As from this time (1996) a new formula for Maori electorates has been in place, with the number of Maori electorates governed by the overall number of Maori electors who elect to remain on the Maori electoral roll. [The number of Maori electorates initially increased from four to five and then from five to seven.] Also from 1996 onwards there has been a significant increase in the number of Maori people in Parliament representing General electorates plus Maori people elected to Parliament on the Party Lists.

There has also been an increase in the number of women elected as Members of Parliament, and an increase in the number of Members of Parliament who are of Pasifika (Pacific Islander) origin.

1997 — First New Zealand woman Prime Minister

Jenny Shipley became New Zealand’s first woman Prime Minister and leader of the National Party.

1999 — Second New Zealand woman Prime Minister

Helen Clark, who had been the leader of the Labour Party since 1994, became New Zealand’s second woman Prime Minister as a result of the Parliamentary General Election held that year. Jenny Shipley (her predecessor as Prime Minister) stayed on politics for three years after her defeat, and then retired from politics.

1999 — First Chinese Member of Parliament

The 1999 Parliamentary General Election resulted in Patsy Wong becoming New Zealand’s first Chinese Member of Parliament. She was joined in Parliament in 2005 by another Chinese person representing another political party.

1999 — Further recognition of the rights of people with disabilities

The incoming Labour Government established the Minister for Disability Issues as a new government portfolio. From this point on people with disabilities have had a recognised point of contact with the political system. This was followed in 2002 by the establishment of a separate Office of Disability Issues, to provide advice and support for the Minister of Disability Issues.

2001 — Apology to Chinese New Zealanders for past injustices

Formal apology by the Government to the New Zealand Chinese community. The apology acknowledged the injustices committed from the 1860s to the 1930s by successive New Zealand Governments against Chinese people.

2001 — Formal reenactment and update of English law on habeas corpus

The Habeas Corpus Act 2001 was passed by Parliament to formally re-enact and update the law that originated in England in the 17th century. Habeas corpus is a Latin phrase that means “produce the body [ie the living person] “. It is a law to prevent people being held in prison without being brought before the Courts and told of the crime that they are supposed to have committed. If a person is held in such circumstances, then the Courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus. This is a document that commands the Police (or other Government authorities) to bring this person before the Court, and explain to the Court why that person is being held. It is a system of law designed to avoid the legal abuse that is currently at the US military base at Guanatanamo Bay, where people have been held in prison for over four years without any Court trial or charges made against them.

2002 — First Muslim Member of Parliament

Ashraf Choudhary became New Zealand’s first South Asian and first Muslim Member of Parliament.

2004 — New Zealand established its own highest appellant law court

New Zealand established its own highest appellant law court (the Supreme Court). Appeals to the Privy Council in London are abolished (except in respect of cases begun in the lower Courts before the date of the new law).

2004 — Further recognition of rights for gay New Zealanders

A civil union law was passed by Parliament. This law provided some degree of legal recognition to same sex adult consensual relationships. Other companion laws were enacted in 2005.

2004 — establishment of the Government funded telephone relay service.

This service was designed to enable effective English language telephone communication via land-line between any two people, where one of those people is deaf, or hearing impaired, or deaf-blind or has a speech impediment.

2005 — New Zealand ranked sixth best in the world (behind Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland in that order) in terms of gender equality.

The World Economic Forum used a composite system of five economic and political measurement indicators that it applies to 56 of the world’s leading countries. The World Economic Forum researchers (Augusto Lopez-Claros and Saadia Zahidi) have acknowledged such measurements have their limitations — in that they have been dictated by the need to use data that can be accurately and consistently measured with respect to all the 56 countries surveyed.

On these measurements, New Zealand, even at sixth best position out of 56 countries, is still measured as being slightly less than 75 percent of the way toward full gender equality.

2006 — New Zealand Sign Language Act

It is estimated that of the 4.1 million people who live in New Zealand there are about 5,000 who have been Deaf from birth. Many of these use sign language to communicate with each other. They are a close-knit community and regard themselves as having their own unique culture. New Zealand Sign is the language of this community of people. In 2006 the New Zealand Parliament passed the New Zealand Sign Language Act and thereby recognised their language as New Zealand’s third official language. (English and Maori are the other two official languages in New Zealand). The new law that made New Zealand Sign an official language places an obligation on government organisations to have sign language interpreters when they have dealings with people from the Deaf community.

NOTE
Where a person describes themselves as Deaf this means they have been this way since birth or since infancy.
Where a person describes themselves as deaf this means they have had some hearing for most of their lives, but have become deaf or hearing impaired in later life — as a result of accident, disease, or hearing loss due to adverse environmental noise conditions.

2007 — Changes to criminal law to protect children from assault by their parents

Prior to 2007 the criminal law in New Zealand permitted children to be assaulted by their parents provided that it was “reasonable”. But the way this law was being applied by the Courts meant some children were not being protected from serious harm.

In 2007 Parliament agreed to changes to the criminal law to remove that anomaly.

2007 — New Zealand no longer classifies sedition as a crime

In 2007 The Crimes (Repeal of Seditious Offences) Amendment Act was passed by Parliament and it removed sedition from the New Zealand statute book. Thus in New Zealand there is no longer a crime known as sedition.

As a legal concept the law of sedition, as it had been understood in New Zealand from 1840 until 2007, was intended to protect the Government from attempts to undermine its authority or otherwise inciting lawlessness and disorder. The New Zealand Law Commission reported in 2007 to Parliament recommending that sedition no longer be a crime. The Commission said that crimes such as incitement to break laws, conspiracy and treason all remain as part of the law of New Zealand, but that having a separate law of sedition “invaded the democratic value of free speech for no adequate public reason”.

There was overwhelming support in Parliament for what the Law Commission had recommended. On 24 October 2007 when the matter was considered for the third and final time the vote in Parliament was 114 Members of Parliament voting in favour of abolition, and only seven Members of Parliament voting against abolition. The abolition of the law of sedition came into force on 1 January 2008.





1 The first places to accord voting rights to women within a civil society framework are

2 Quoted from page 344 of Michael King’s book “The Penguin History of New Zealand” published by Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand, 2003 ISBN 0 14 301867 1 with permission from the publisher.  I personally had heard the same account in the late 1960s at a meeting attended by the widow of Eruera Tirikatane. She had been present as part of the Ratana delegation back in 1936.

3 See http://www.rnzncomms.net.nz/NZNBHistoryFolder/1956.html accessed on 16 May 2006.

4 New Zealand’s first mosque was built over several years during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was sufficiently complete by August 1980 (the year is 1400 AH in the Muslim calendar) for it to be used for the celebration of the Muslim festival of Eidul Fitr to mark the end of the month of Ramadan.

5 Murray Darroch was involved with this along with the late Quentin Angus. Murray at that time was the policy advisor to the Parliamentary Select Committee considering the legislation. The late Quentin Angus who was the legal advisor to the Disabled Persons Assembly and had been the first disabled person in New Zealand to be qualified and practise as a lawyer.