waterfront dispute


The 1951 waterfront dispute

  • The 1951 waterfront dispute

    The 1951 waterfront dispute was the biggest industrial confrontation in New Zealand’s history. Although it was not as violent as the Great Strike of 1913, it lasted longer – 151 days, from February to July – and involved more workers.

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  • Page 2 – Countdown to confrontation

    New Zealanders generally accepted the hardships and restrictions of the war years as necessary in the fight against fascism. After the war, though, many began to demand a

  • Page 3 – War on the wharves

    With New Zealand’s vital export trade at stake when the wharves came to a standstill, the government declared a state of emergency on 21 February.

  • Page 4 – Division and defeat

    The watersiders’ militancy had isolated them from most unionists and Walter Nash’s Labour Party Opposition sat uncomfortably on the fence, denouncing government repression but

  • Page 5 – Further information

    Recommended links and publications relating to the 1951 waterfront dispute

The Cold War

  • The Cold War

    Although the origins of the so-called Cold War can be traced back to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, this intense ideological struggle between the Western powers and the Soviet Union really began after the Second World War.

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  • Page 8 – War at home

    Apart from a period during the 1950s, New Zealanders remained relatively tolerant of communism.


  • Nash, Walter

    At almost 76, Walter Nash was New Zealand’s oldest incoming PM and the last foreign-born one. He had two wives, Lotty, and Parliament. He was still an MP when he died aged 86.

  • Walsh, Fintan Patrick

    As a leading trade unionist from the 1930s until his death in 1963, Fintan Patrick Walsh established himself as one of the most powerful figures in New Zealand. The ruthless way he dealt with opposition aroused great loathing in his enemies.

  • Holland, Sidney George

    Holland became PM in 1949. A year later he abolished the Legislative Council, and in 1951, after winning the Waterfront Dispute, he increased his majority in a snap election.

  • A memorial plaque acknowledging the contributions and sacrifices made by Merchant Navy seamen during the Second World War was unveiled on the front wall of the Port Chalmers Maritime Museum on 14 February 1993.