The 1970s

Page 10 – 1977 - key events

Occupation of Bastion Point

The occupation by Ngāti Whātua of Takaparawhā (Bastion Point reserve) above Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour began in January. Protesters led by Joe Hawke were reacting to the Crown's decision to sell land declared to be ‘absolutely inalienable’ that Ngāti Whātua maintained had been wrongly taken from them. The occupation lasted until May 1978, when police and army personnel removed all 218 occupiers. Following a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry and recommendations, much of Takaparawhā was returned to or vested with Ngāti Whātua.

Sleeping dogs released

Sleeping dogs, based on C.K. Stead’s novel Smith's dream, was the first full-length feature film made entirely by a New Zealand production crew. It attracted large audiences here and was also released in the United States. Directed by Roger Donaldson and starring Sam Neill and Ian Mune, its depiction of large-scale civil unrest seemed far-fetched to many Kiwis at the time. By the time of the tumultuous 1981 Springbok tour, it had become eerily prophetic. Following the success of Sleeping dogs, a New Zealand Film Commission was established in 1978 to fund the production of New Zealand cinema.

Gleneagles Agreement

In the wake of the 1976 All Blacks’ tour of South Africa and the subsequent boycott of the Olympic Games by 26 African nations (including Commonwealth members), the issue of sporting ties with South Africa was high on the agenda at a meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government at Gleneagles, Scotland. Despite Prime Minister Robert Muldoon’s steadfast defence of the rights of New Zealanders to travel freely overseas, the issue had clearly harmed New Zealand’s international reputation. Muldoon reiterated his belief that sports and politics should be kept separate. The Gleneagles Agreement was unanimously adopted by member nations, which promised to ‘take every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa’. New Zealand’s commitment to the agreement was brought into question when the Springboks were allowed to toured New Zealand in 1981.

The Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act

Abortion had been a criminal offence in New Zealand since 1866. By the 1970s it had become a deeply divisive social and political issue. Some defended what they saw as a basic human right to seek a medically safe abortion if a pregnancy was unwanted. Others asserted – usually on religious grounds – that every foetus had the right to develop into a baby. Most people’s views were somewhere between these extreme positions. Abortion became a key issue for the women’s rights movement during the 1970s. The ‘pro-life’ lobby had considerable support from a number of churches and politicians. Both sides mounted street marches, pickets and vigils, especially after New Zealand’s first abortion clinic, the Auckland Medical Aid Centre (AMAC), opened in 1974. Patients were harassed and the clinic was damaged in an arson attack.

In 1975 Parliament set up a royal commission to consider both abortion and the wider issues of contraception and sterilisation. The 1977 act established an Abortion Supervisory Committee with the power to appoint certifying consultants and license abortion clinics. Health boards were required to fund lawful abortions. Clinics were established in Auckland in 1978 and Wellington two years later. With the act forcing the AMAC to close (it reopened in 1980), many women seeking an abortion had no alternative but to go to Australia at their own expense. The organisation Sisters Overseas Service (SOS) helped women travel to Australia for abortions in 1978–79.

Anti-SIS protests

In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, the New Zealand government established a Security Service independent of the Police. Later renamed the Security Intelligence Service, this ‘civilian intelligence and security organisation’ advises the government on matters relating to New Zealand’s security. A 1977 amendment to the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act considerably expanded the agency’s monitoring powers. People already concerned about the government’s establishment of the country’s first centralised electronic database through the Wanganui Computer Centre Act saw this as a further erosion of civil liberties. There were large protests outside Parliament as a result.

Other 1977 events

  • During her visit to New Zealand as part of a tour of the Commonwealth in celebration of her Silver Jubilee (25 years on the throne), the Queen officially opened the new Executive Wing (the Beehive), despite the fact that the upper floors of the building were incomplete.
  • Canadian Joan Phipps became the first woman jockey to ride in a totalisator race in New Zealand.
  • Internal Affairs Minister Allan Highet announced that ‘God defend New Zealand’ would be New Zealand’s second national anthem, equal in status to ‘God save The Queen’.
  • Future Labour Prime Minister David Lange entered Parliament after winning the Mangere by-election following the resignation of scandal-plagued Colin Moyle.
  • The consumer affairs television show Fair go debuted to good reviews.
  • Nice one Stu was joined by Hey hey it's Andy, giving Kiwi kids a choice of after-school viewing.
  • Sir Keith Holyoake, a current Cabinet minister, was appointed as governor-general in a move open to accusations of political partisanship. This precedent has not been repeated.
  • The Human Rights Commission Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or religious belief.
  • A petition in support of the 1975 Maruia Declaration was presented to Parliament. More than 340,000 people had signed the petition, which called for an end to the logging of ‘virgin’ native forests in New Zealand.

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'1977 - key events', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-May-2018

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