The 1970s

Page 11 – 1978 - key events

All Blacks’ first ‘grand slam’

All Blacks vs Wales, 1978

Victory over all four home unions – a ‘grand slam’ – was the Holy Grail for any All Black team touring the British Isles. They had come close four times, including the (in)famous defeat at the hands of Wales in 1905 and another loss to Wales in 1953. There were also agonising draws against Scotland (1964) and Ireland (1973). The 1978 team arrived in Dublin for the first test of the tour in less than vintage form. A 16–30 loss to Australia at home had been compounded by a shock defeat by Munster. But the Irish were defeated 10–6; Wales were next. With four minutes remaining at Cardiff Arms Park, Wales led 12–10 when the All Blacks were awarded a penalty after a line-out from which All Black lock Andy Haden had fallen theatrically. With television replays showing that no Welshman had laid a hand on Haden, Brian McKechnie converted the penalty for a 13–12 win. English referee Roger Quittenton’s post-match claim that he had penalised Wales for a separate infringement (a lock had ‘jumped off’ Frank Oliver’s shoulder) was unconvincing. McKechnie was to be at the centre of another great sporting controversy in 1981, when he was the batsman who faced Trevor Chappell’s underarm delivery at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The grand slam was achieved with comfortable victories over England (16–6) and Scotland (18–9). In the professional era, the All Blacks have completed grand slams in 2005, 2008 and 2010.

New Zealand establishes Exclusive Economic Zone

New Zealand established an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a 200-nautical-mile (370-km) radius around its shores, partly in a bid to protect stocks of deep-sea fish. Since the 1960s these had been exploited by foreign vessels, including Russian, Taiwanese, South Korean and Japanese trawlers. Under United Nations conventions that were then being negotiated, island nations were entitled to 200-nautical-mile EEZs on the same basis as continental states. Because New Zealand was able to use the small islands to the north, east and south of the three main islands as base points for its zone, its EEZ covered 4 million sq km, the fourth largest in the world. The UN adopted the convention in 1982.

Bruce Beetham

In a shock result, Social Credit Party leader Bruce Beetham won the Rangitikei by-election to become only the second MP not representing one of the two main parties since 1946. The other was one of Beetham’s predecessors as Social Credit leader, Vern Cracknell, who had held Hobson from 1966 to 1969. Rangitikei, a predominantly rural electorate, was considered safe for National. The by-election followed the death of long-time member and Speaker of the House, Sir Roy Jack. Beetham retained the seat in the general election later that year and held it until 1984, when he was defeated by National’s Denis Marshall.

Beetham had led Social Credit since 1972 and had been elected mayor of Hamilton in 1976. His time in Parliament saw an upswing in support for Social Credit, but under the ‘first past the post’ system this did not bring significant numbers into the House. In 1981 Social Credit won 16% of the vote but Beetham remained the party’s only MP. Three years later the party polled just over 20% but had only Neil Morrison (Pakuranga) and Gary Knapp (East Coast Bays) to show for it. Not surprisingly, Beetham and Social Credit were strong supporters of proportional representation.

Top of the pops

After a one-year hiatus due mainly to the tough economic times, the New Zealand Music Awards were reintroduced. Hello Sailor won both Album of the Year and Group of the Year, while John Rowles and Sharon O’Neill were the top male and female performers. Golden Harvest’s lead singer Karl Gordon, resplendent in satin flares with matching waistcoat – but no shirt – summed up the fashion of the era perfectly. Featuring the four Kaukau brothers, Golden Harvest’s hit ‘I need your love’ was voted Single of the Year.

Annual awards for the New Zealand recording industry had been made since 1965, when the Loxene Golden Disc Awards (named for Loxene shampoo) were cofounded by the NZBC and Reckitt & Colman, a soap powder manufacturer.

Other 1978 events

  • In a joint police and army operation, all 218 protesters at Bastion Point, Auckland were removed, ending an occupation that had begun in January 1977.
  • The Kaimai rail tunnel opened after 13 years under construction. At nearly 9 km it remains New Zealand’s longest rail tunnel.
  • New Zealand beat England in a cricket test for the first time. Needing 137 for victory at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, England was dismissed for 64.
  • National was re-elected with an overall majority of 10 seats despite securing fewer votes than Labour.
  • Eva Rickard led a protest against the loss of Tainui Awhiro land at Raglan.
  • The New Zealand Film Commission was established to fund the production of New Zealand cinema films.
  • International airline Air New Zealand and the domestic National Airways Corporation were merged as Air New Zealand.
  • Fifteen-year old Meda McKenzie became the first New Zealand woman to swim Cook Strait. A fortnight later she swam the strait in the opposite direction.

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'1978 - key events', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 29-Sep-2021

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Frances Rakimakere-Edwards

Posted: 17 May 2017

I 3rd July 1978, my son Alistair Stephens died, I was arrested and charged with his murder before even an autopsy was performed. When it was, death was determined to be as a result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He was the seventh child to die that year. An article was printed in the New Zealand Herald (19 Sept.) front page "The Ngai Tahu Princess Speaks Out". That was me. I started the very first Cot Death Society in Karori. so that what happened to me would not happen to anyone else. I believe, I was arrested because I was Maori, My son did have a broken rib. His father broke his rib. I sought help from the Plunket Nurse, the Public Health Nurse and they both tried to help me. They both knew he broke my son's rib. I believe he was not arrested or charged ever because he was a pakeha.