New Zealand Music Month

Page 3 – Best New Zealand songs ever?

In 2001, to celebrate 75 years of its existence, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) invited its members and an academy to vote for what they believed to be New Zealand's top songs of all time. The clear winner was 'Nature', written by Wayne Mason in 1969. His band, the Fourmyula, took this acoustic song to number one on the New Zealand charts in January 1970.

Ironically, the Fourmyula never once played the song live. One reason given by Mason was that local audiences at the time were unprepared for local bands to perform original material. 'Playing our own music would never have filled dance halls ... we never played our own songs on stage: it was all Tamla Motown, Arthur Brown and "Everlasting love".'

The top 30 songs as voted by APRA and the academy in 2001 

  1. 'Nature', Wayne Mason (Fourmyula, 1969)
  2. 'Don't dream it's over', Neil Finn (Crowded House, 1987)
  3. 'Loyal', Dave Dobbyn (1988)
  4. 'Counting the beat', Phil Judd/Mark Hough/Wayne Stevens (The Swingers, 1981)
  5. 'Six months in a leaky boat', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1982)
  6. 'Sway', Bic Runga (1997)
  7. 'Slice of heaven', Dave Dobbyn (Dave Dobbyn with Herbs, 1986)
  8. 'Victoria', Jordan Luck (Dance Exponents, 1982)
  9. 'She speeds', Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits, 1987)
  10. 'April sun in Cuba', Paul Hewson/Marc Hunter (Dragon, 1978)
  11. 'I got you', Neil Finn (Split Enz, 1980)
  12. 'Whaling', Dave Dobbyn (DD Smash, 1984)
  13. 'Not given lightly', Chris Knox (1990)
  14. 'Pink frost', Martin Phillips (The Chills, 1984)
  15. 'Jesus I was evil', Darcy Clay (1997)
  16. 'Weather with you', Tim Finn/Neil Finn (Crowded House, 1991)
  17. 'Blue smoke', Ruru Karaitiana (Pixie Williams and the Ruru Karaitiana Quartet, 1949)
  18. 'Dance all around the world', Corben Simpson/Geoff Murphy (Blerta, 1972)
  19. 'Lydia', Julia Deans (Fur Patrol, 2000)
  20. 'Blue lady', Graham Brazier (Hello Sailor, 1977)
  21. 'Drive', Bic Runga (1996)
  22. 'Chains', Che Fu/DLT/Angus McNaughton/Kevin Rangihuna (1996)
  23. 'Dominion Road', Don McGlashan (The Mutton Birds, 1993)
  24. 'Glad I'm not a Kennedy', Shona Laing (1986)
  25. 'I hope I never', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1979)
  26. 'Tears', Fane Flaws/Arthur Baysting (Crocodiles, 1980)
  27. 'Be mine tonight', Dave Dobbyn/Ian Morris (Th' Dudes, 1978)
  28. 'I see red', Tim Finn (Split Enz, 1979)
  29. 'Beside you', Dave Dobbyn (1998)
  30. 'Home again', Karl Kippenberger/Tom Larkin/Phil Knight/Jon Toogood (Shihad, 1997)

An alternative to the APRA top 30

After the APRA list of New Zealand's top songs in 2001, 3000 people voted for their top 50 New Zealand songs in an online survey in May 2006. Dave Dobbyn's 'Loyal' was voted the number one song on this list. In total, seven songs written by Dobbyn made the list, and this was a greater number than for any other songwriter. In the list voted by APRA, five songs written by Dobbyn were in the top 30, confirming his status as one of the country's most successful songwriters.

The APRA operations manager, Anthony Healey, felt that the common thread that linked the songs was their 'innate New Zealandness'. These are songs you would hear 'playing on a jukebox in a country pub, at a summer barbecue', and they are the ones 'we sing along loudly with at the rugby'.

The top 10 New Zealand songs as voted in the online poll were:

  1. 'Loyal', Dave Dobbyn
  2. 'Why does love do this to me?', The Exponents
  3. 'Slice of heaven', Dave Dobbyn
  4. 'Don't dream it's over', Crowded House
  5. 'Sway', Bic Runga
  6. 'April sun in Cuba', Dragon
  7. 'Home again', Shihad
  8. 'Victoria', The Exponents
  9. 'Bliss', Th' Dudes
  10. 'I see red', Split Enz

What do you think should be added to these lists? Fill out the Community Contribution form below (or email [email protected]) and if there is some consensus, we'll add them to an additions list.

How to cite this page

'Best New Zealand songs ever?', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016

Community contributions

45 comments have been posted about Best New Zealand songs ever?

What do you know?

NZ Music Lover

Posted: 06 Apr 2023

Lets think of something, written by Roger Skinner, recorded by Larrys Rebels was awesome and deserving of top 30

Going out on a limb, RIot 101 should be in here somewhere, if for no other reason than taking on Muldoon and going way off mainstream

Luke Rogers

Posted: 22 Dec 2022

Sharon O'Neill & Mi Sex are glaring omissions here. "People" by Mi Sex is a masterclass in pop/rock composition and recording, and "Blue Day" is one of the greatest songs ever written/recorded, by anyone, anywhere in the history of the known universe. As for Sharon, sublime and so, so criminally underrated.

Richard Anderson

Posted: 18 Aug 2021

Um. Dragon's ARE YOU OLD ENOUGH & Mi Sex's BLUE DAY aren't in the nz all time great songs makes it all farcical...


Posted: 10 Aug 2021

Hi Revving Tongues ~ "Rain and Tears" ... 1960's ...great song seems forgotten.

Kiwi Trucker

Posted: 05 Sep 2020

Listen or Sensitive To A Smile by Herbs?


Posted: 03 Mar 2020

Poi E?


Posted: 22 Jun 2019

Amazing isn't it how the song "Loyal" can only make number 19 on the weekly (not yearly) chart and it's voted number 1 of all time. Boring song for me and always has been.


Posted: 09 Oct 2018

Surprised to not see any of Margaret Urlich's songs on the list. eg. Escaping, Number One, Boy in the Moon.


Posted: 26 Jun 2018

Sitting in the rain,underdogs how is the air up there la de das ,

Geoff King

Posted: 01 Mar 2018

Have you Kiwis already forgotten John Rowles and Dyna Lee?
Cheryl Moana Marie (my opinion) in best 3 songs of all time (anywhere).