The 1970s

Page 8 – 1975 - key events

Land march

Te Rōpū Matakite (‘Those with Foresight’) was launched at a hui at Mangere Marae in early 1975. After six months of planning, 50 marchers left Te Hāpua in the far north on 14 September for the 1100-km walk to Wellington. The primary aim of the march was to call for an end to the alienation (sale) of Māori land. The hīkoi was led by 79-year-old Te Rarawa leader Whina Cooper. Rallying behind the catch-cry of ‘Not one more acre of Maori land’, the hīkoi quickly grew in strength. When the march reached Parliament a month later, 5000 people were on hand to present a 60,000-signature petition to Prime Minister Bill Rowling.

Watch video of the arrival at Parliament here.

Wal, Dog and Footrot Flats debut

Murray Ball’s cartoon strip Footrot Flats, based on the life of Wal Footrot and his sheepdog (known simply as ‘Dog’) made its debut. The cartoon’s characters – human and animal – proved immensely popular both here and, despite its distinctly Kiwi portrayal of farming life, overseas. It spawned numerous books, a stage musical, and in 1986 New Zealand’s first animated feature film, Footrot Flats: the dog's (tail) tale. Like Fred Dagg, Footrot Flats gave Kiwi audiences a chance to laugh at something familiar.

Waitangi Tribunal created

The 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act established the Waitangi Tribunal as an ongoing commission of inquiry to hear grievances against the Crown concerning breaches of the Treaty. Its passage, set against the backdrop of the land march and shortly before that year’s general election, was a significant constitutional milestone.

Initially the Tribunal was only empowered to investigate Treaty claims relating to events occurring after 1975. When a decade later the Tribunal was empowered to investigate claims dating back to 1840, there was a huge increase in the number of claims. The expansion of the Tribunal’s activities sparked a backlash from some Pākeha and the value and direction of the Tribunal was strongly debated in the following decades.

Muldoon leads National to victory

The 1975 general election saw National reverse its landslide defeat of 1972 under new leader Robert Muldoon. Muldoon had portrayed Norman Kirk’s successor as prime minister, Bill Rowling, as weak and made much of Labour’s decision to cancel the proposed 1973 Springbok tour. The impact of the first oil shock had hurt the New Zealand economy. National’s pledge to replace Labour’s compulsory contribution superannuation scheme with a tax-funded scheme for which all New Zealanders would qualify on turning 60 also wooed many voters.

Muldoon’s abrasive style saw him become one of the more polarising figures in New Zealand political history during his nine years in office. He was a master of the media, especially television. His style was captured perfectly during a memorable interview with Simon Walker on the current events show Tonight in 1976. Muldoon believed in maintaining strong military ties with the United States. This and his decision not to interfere with the 1976 All Black tour of South Africa alienated urban liberals. But they were never his people.

Other 1975 events

  • A jury found economist Dr W.B. Sutch not guilty of spying for the Soviet Union after a five-day trial.
  • American Lynne Cox became the first woman to swim across Cook Strait, battling heavy seas and strong winds during her 12-hour swim.
  • The United Nation's International Women’s Year was marked by a national United Women’s Convention which saw speakers from home and abroad address over 2,000 women who had gathered to share experiences and discuss many aspects of their lives.
  • Eighteen-year-old hitchhiker Mona Blades vanished. Her disappearance remains one of this country’s longest unsolved murder cases.
  • Mark Williams was the king of the local pop scene with his number 1 hit, ‘Yesterday was just the beginning of my life’.
  • In August John Walker became the first person to run a mile in less than 3 minutes 50 seconds. Walker’s record time of 3 minutes 49.4 seconds was set in Göteborg, Sweden.
  • A.H. Reed, author and co-founder of the leading New Zealand publishing firm A.H. and A.W. Reed, died at the age of 99.
  • New Zealand’s second television channel began broadcasting
  • On 12 May the first episode of pioneering local soap opera Close to home was broadcast. At its peak in 1977 each episode of the show attracted nearly one million viewers.
  • Permanent residents who were not New Zealand citizens were able to vote in a general election for the first time.

Can you remember 1975? Add your memories and comments in the form below.

How to cite this page

'1975 - key events', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/the-1970s/1975, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-May-2018

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