The 1970s

Page 4 – 1971 - key events

Arthur Allan Thomas

Waikato farmer Arthur Allan Thomas was found guilty of the murder of his neighbours Jeanette and Harvey Crewe the previous year. Following an appeal he was convicted for a second time in 1973. A campaign led in part by Pat Booth of the Auckland Star attempted to overturn Thomas’s conviction. After forensic scientist Dr Jim Sprott asserted that a cartridge case crucial to the conviction had been planted at the scene by police, Thomas was eventually pardoned in December 1979. No one else has been arrested for the murders. Theories about what really happened have included murder–suicide, a claim that Jeanette Crewe’s father Len Demler was the killer, and a suggestion that the guilty man was a policeman who planted the cartridge case. The best-selling book Beyond reasonable doubt (1978) by British author David Yallop was followed by a docudrama feature film with the same title (1980).

Race Relations Act

The Race Relations Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality or ethnic origin. It established the office of Race Relations Conciliator and set up procedures for dealing with complaints of racial discrimination. Sir Guy Powles, New Zealand’s first Ombudsman, was appointed as the first Race Relations Conciliator. In 1977 discrimination on the grounds of marital status, sex, or religious or ethical belief were added to the office’s brief. In 2001 the Race Relations Office merged with the Human Rights Commission.


Pukemanu, with its ‘rural, bi-cultural, boozy and blokey’ portrayal of life in a North Island timber town, was a milestone for locally made television. Its two six-episode seasons marked the first time the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation had invested in continuing drama. Some viewers accustomed to a regular diet of American and British accents experienced ‘cultural cringe’ on hearing an authentic Kiwi twang, but Pukemanu was generally praised for its ‘Swannie-clad authenticity’.

Anti-Vietnam War protests in Queen St

Protesters disrupted the civic reception held to mark the return of 161 Battery RNZA and 4 Troop NZSAS from their deployment in South Vietnam in May. Things were relatively uneventful until the parade reached the Auckland Town Hall, outside which firecrackers and red paint-bombs symbolising the bloodshed in Vietnam were thrown on the road. Paint-covered protesters then sat on the road, disrupting the parade briefly before they were removed by police. In August Prime Minister Holyoake announced that New Zealand’s combat forces would be withdrawn from South Vietnam by ‘about the end of this year’.

Other 1971 events

  • The Manapōuri power station, New Zealand’s largest hydroelectric generator, was completed and the Tīwai Point aluminium smelter began production.
  • The South Pacific Forum met for the first time, in Wellington. The Forum sought to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Luxembourg agreement secured special access for New Zealand’s butter, cheese and lamb exports after the United Kingdom entered the European Economic Community in 1973.
  • Opera singer, actor and master carver Inia Te Wiata died. Rising opera star Kiri Te Kanawa debuted at Covent Garden.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first New Zealand store in Auckland – the American fast food invasion had begun.
  • The Weekly News was published for the last time.
  • The last scheduled steam-hauled service on New Zealand Railways, the Christchurch–Dunedin overnight express, brought to an end 108 years of regular steam rail operations in this country.
  • The Melbourne Cup was the first sporting event to be broadcast live via satellite in this country following the opening of the Warkworth satellite station earlier in the year.
  • Craig Scott won back-to-back Loxene Golden Disc Awards with ‘Smiley’. The other major award went to Chapta for their hit, ‘Say a prayer’.

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