Events In History


Women and the vote

The road to MMP

  • The road to MMP

    In 1993 New Zealanders voted to replace their traditional first past the post (FPP) voting system with mixed member proportional representation (MMP). Eighteen years on, as Kiwis voted in a new electoral referendum, we explore how and why that dramatic reform came about.

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  • Page 2 – First past the post

    From 1853 until 1993 (apart from 1908–13) New Zealand elections were held under the first past the post (FPP) or plurality system.

  • Page 3 – The Royal Commission

    During the 1981 and 1984 campaigns, Labour promised to set up a Royal Commission to look into a wide range of issues relating to the electoral system.

  • Page 4 – Putting it to the vote

    Although only 55% of electors took part in a referendum, an overwhelming 85% voted to change their electoral system. In the second part of the poll, 70% favoured mixed member

  • Page 5 – 1996 and beyond - the road to MMP

    The three years following the 1993 referendum, before the first MMP election in 1996, were ones of transition and uncertainty.

Election Days

  • Election Days

    When New Zealanders go to the polls on 26 November 2011, they will continue a 158-year-old tradition of parliamentary democracy in this country. Politics may have changed beyond recognition since 1853, but the cut and thrust of the campaign trail, the power of advertising, and the drama of polling day remain as relevant as ever.

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  • Page 2 – Early elections

    Even though New Zealand's electoral franchise (right to vote) was more generous than Britain's, the colony's early elections were in many ways small-scale replicas of those in

  • Page 3 – Cleaning up elections

    The New Zealand Parliament was alarmed by reports of electoral abuses in Auckland in the 1850s. It decided that electoral laws needed to be tightened, and in 1858 passed a

  • Page 4 – Nights on the town

    After the colour and controversy of the 1850s, election days in New Zealand have generally been orderly affairs. Even so, election nights could still be lively occasions.

  • Page 5 – Peddling politicians

    Given the printing technology of the time, early election posters and hoardings were inevitably simple.

  • Page 6 – Radio and TV

    Electoral advertising was transformed first by radio, and later by television.

  • Page 7 – General Elections 1853–2020

    Dates and turnout statistics for New Zealand general elections

  • Page 8 – Further information

    Find out more about election days in New Zealand.

Temperance movement

  • Temperance movement

    Temperance was one of the most divisive social issues in late-19th and early-20th century New Zealand. Social reformers who argued that alcohol fuelled poverty, ill health, crime and immorality nearly achieved national prohibition in a series of hotly contested referendums.

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  • Page 3 – The no-license era

    The 'three-fifths majority' was a major hurdle for the temperance community, but they soon mobilised to campaign for people to vote for it.

  • Page 4 – Voting for prohibition

    The First World War period brought total or partial prohibition to several countries: New Zealand came within a whisker of joining them.

  • Page 5 – The decline of prohibition

    Alcohol remained an important issue after the war, and the prohibitionists slogged it out with the liquor trade throughout the 1920s.

  • Page 6 – Masterton under no-license

    The November 1908 licensing poll saw Masterton electorate introduce ‘no-license' and vote itself ‘dry’. Its 15 pubs closed on 1 July 1909, and remained closed

Should the voting age be lowered to 16?

Māori and the vote

The House of Representatives

  • The House of Representatives

    New Zealand's Parliament dates back to 1854, just 14 years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the beginning of the European settlement of the country. For most of its history as a nation state, New Zealand has had some form of elected government.

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  • Page 4 - Doing businessThe operation of Parliament has changed over time as its workload has grown and new systems such as MMP have been implemented.

The 1920s

  • The 1920s

    The 1920s was the decade that modern New Zealand came of age. Despite political and economic uncertainty, the country shrugged off the gloom of war to embrace the Jazz Age - an era of speed, power and glamour. Explore an overview of the decade and a year-by-year breakdown of key events.

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  • Page 10 - 1927 - key eventsA selection of key New Zealand events from


  • Sheppard, Katherine Wilson

    New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote. Kate Sheppard, leading light of the suffrage movement, was vindicated when 65% of New Zealand women took the chance to vote in their first general election.

  • Morison, Harriet Russell

    Dynamic and determined, Harriet Morison helped establish trade unions for female workers and was one of the leaders in the campaign to get votes for women.

  • Fish, Henry Smith

    An able but controversial politician, Henry Smith Fish is best remembered for his aggressive attempts to prevent women getting the vote.