In the 1970s the hugely popular comic character Fred Dagg allowed Kiwis to laugh with affection at some of the rural myths that had once defined us as a country. When economic recession took hold in the middle of the decade the laconic Dagg – resplendent in black singlet and floppy hat – reminded us that ‘She’ll be right’ and that no matter how bad things got, ‘New Zealand’s a cracker’.
By the time Britain finally entered the European Economic Community in 1973 we had already begun diversifying our export markets. But our loss of status as ‘Britain’s farmyard’ was still a blow. The oil shocks of 1973 and 1978–9 highlighted the vulnerability of the New Zealand economy.
Protests against the Vietnam War, French nuclear testing in the Pacific and sporting ties with South Africa continued. Māori activism – over land in particular – raised questions about the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand society. Kiwis marched to save the environment and over social issues that included homosexuality, feminism, abortion and the welfare system.
The decade ended in tragedy on the slopes of Mt Erebus, where all 257 people on board an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight over Antarctica perished on 28 November 1979.
This feature provides an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of some of its key events and personalities.