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?


Posted: 11 Dec 2017

far too much Dave Dobbyn.


Posted: 11 Dec 2017

you are incorrect. The formyula played nature live at the Waipara wine and food festival several years ago.


Posted: 29 Aug 2017

List stuck in 1993 get relevant Duff k one ,McNabb and many more great modem kiwi singers artists Dave is good I liked DD smash lang is great tommy I'll has some good ones too

Martin Nynion

Posted: 17 Jul 2017

Anchor Me, the Muttonbirds. Far better than any song listed above.

Jo Hilder

Posted: 11 Jun 2017

There is no depression in New Zealand - Blam Blam Blam


Posted: 12 May 2017

how about the young years by dragon that's a good one


Posted: 17 Jan 2017

For Today - Netherworld Dancing Toys


Posted: 14 Dec 2016

Gutter black, Don't fight it marsha its bigger than both of us, Poor Boy


Posted: 09 Aug 2016

Netherworl Dancing Toys - For Today !!! Howd that get missed?

Robin Capper

Posted: 13 Mar 2016

Nothing by John Hanlon, seriously? 'Dam the dam' and 'Higher Trails' not worthy? Far too much 80's onwards bias in this list.