The 1960s

Page 8 – 1965 - key events

New Zealand sends troops to Vietnam

NZ soliders in Vietnam

New Zealand's involvement in the Vietnam War was controversial and attracted protest. For a growing number of New Zealanders, the Vietnam War shone a new light on our place in the world.

The government was initially cautious in its approach, choosing to send a Civilian Surgical Team in 1963. Under increasing pressure from the United States, army engineers were dispatched in June 1964 to help with reconstruction projects. In April 1965 the US Secretary for State, Henry Cabot Lodge, arrived in Wellington. He was greeted by anti-war demonstrations but the following month the government announced that it was sending its first combat force: a battery of the Royal New Zealand Artillery. In July 161 Battery, stationed at Bien Hoa air base near Saigon, opened fire on a Viet Cong position in support of the American 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Prison riots

Mt Eden Prison

Mt Eden Prison is one of New Zealand's oldest prisons and probably its best known. By 1945 there were public calls for the ageing Victorian stone building to be demolished. In the winter of 1965, after overcrowding became critical, a prison-wide riot erupted. On 20 July, following a failed mass breakout attempt, prisoners lit fires that quickly spread along the roof. By the time they surrendered 33 hours later, little remained of the prison other than its stone shell. The rebellious mood quickly spread. Conflicts and fires were started at Wellington's Mt Crawford Prison and Paparua Prison in Christchurch.

NAFTA signed

Australian dn NZ flags

Australia had played an important part in New Zealand's early economic development before Britain became the main market for both countries' agricultural exports in the late 19th century. New Zealand continued to trade with Australia, and the trans-Tasman neighbours signed their first formal economic agreement in 1922. But with both countries guaranteed access to the British market, this was of little consequence. By the early 1960s Britain had made clear its intention to join the European Economic Community, which would mean an end to New Zealand and Australia's cosy export arrangements with the British. Against this background, a New Zealand Australia Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed on 31 August 1965. It came into force on 1 January 1966.

The agreement allowed for the phasing out of duties on a range of products over up to eight years. Each country submitted lists of products to be included in ‘free trade’ schedules which were subject to annual review. This led to criticisms that the agreement was ‘too complex and bureaucratic’. NAFTA had a modest impact on trans-Tasman trade. At the end of the 1960s Australia continued to provide around 20% of New Zealand's imports, while our exports to Australia had doubled to 8%. NAFTA played an important part in stimulating debate on trans-Tasman economic integration that culminating in the 1983 Closer Economic Relations agreement.

Cook Islands achieves self-government

Cook Island flag

New Zealand's formal ties with the Cook Islands began as a result of a petition by the chiefs of Rarotonga. In 1901 the Federal Parliament of the Cooks was abolished and the islands were incorporated within the boundaries of New Zealand. Until 1946 the islands were governed by a Resident Commissioner appointed by the New Zealand government.

After the Second World War steps were taken towards establishing responsible internal self-government. In 1957 a representative Legislative Assembly of the Cook Islands with increased powers was created. In 1962 this Assembly declared a goal of internal self-government, which was achieved in August 1965.

Other 1965 events

  • Waikato University at Hamilton was officially opened in February.
  • TEAL became Air New Zealand.
  • Ray Columbus and The Invaders won the inaugural Loxene Golden Disc Award for ‘Till we kissed’. These awards were the forerunner of today's Tui and New Zealand Music Awards.
  • The Benmore hydroelectric scheme came on line. Electricity was sent from the South to the North Island via a new inter-island cable.
  • The last steam-powered express service on the North Island main trunk line left Auckland for Wellington.
  • The first commercial services flew out of Auckland's new international airport at Mangere, which was officially opened in January 1966.
  • The Lawson quintuplets were born in Auckland. They were the first set of quintuplets to survive in New Zealand.
  • The final link in the Haast Pass road was completed. Tourists could now travel directly from Westland to Otago.
  • The stellar career of Kiri Te Kanawa was launched when she won the Mobil Song Quest.
  • Norman Kirk replaced Arnold Nordmeyer as leader of the opposition Labour Party. ‘Big Norm’ would eventually end National's 12-year stranglehold on power, leading Labour to a landslide victory in 1972.

Can you remember 1965? Add your memories and comments in the form below.

How to cite this page

'1965 - key events', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-May-2018

Community contributions

5 comments have been posted about 1965 - key events

What do you know?

Rosemary Hay

Posted: 21 Nov 2015

My family arrived in Christchurch from Scotland in June 1965, my father (ex RAF) having joined the RNZAF. It was pretty cold, not what my parents had been led to believe about tropical New Zealand! It was a whole new way of life which took some getting used to, and a long way from family. There were lots of other ex pat families at Wigram Air Base, which helped with settling in. They never regretted it and are still alive in their 80's, living in Auckland, with Kiwi grandchildren around them.

Jenny Gray

Posted: 15 Mar 2012

RE: TEAL becomes Air New Zealand. If my facts are correct, then I along with my parents, 2 brothers and my sister were all passengers on board the first Air New Zealand flight ex Sydney to Auckland. The flight left Sydney at midnight on 31/3/1965 arriving Auckland at Whenuapai at 0600 hrs. I remember the air hostesses telling the passengers and we celebrated the event with a piece of cake. My family have lived in NZ ever since, although our parents have long since deceased. I was wondering if there will be a 50 year celebration of when Teal became Air New Zealand. Thanking you for an opportunity to share my memory. Yours faithfully Jenny Gray ( nee Foster)

melanie Budge

Posted: 15 Nov 2011

born 3/4/65 adopted at birth.. know my family history thanks to the law change, my mums live 2 streets away from each other in Auckland and have never met...My life is joyous have 7 children and 8 grandies

Paul Jeffery

Posted: 05 Dec 2010

July 22, 1965, Newly named Air New Zealand enters the jet age, when it's first Douglas DC-8 series 52, ZK-NZA, tailor made with longer range, is delivered after a 13 hour non stop flight from factory in Long Beach, California, USA. Three were delivered in 1965, and another four would arrive before the decade was out. This was a monumental era for not only the airline, but the world's most isolated nation.