In the first half of 1959 Billy Graham and his associate evangelists Leighton Ford, Grady Wilson and Joseph Blinco held crusades in New Zealand and Australia which attracted large audiences.
More than 160,000 people attended the seven-day Auckland crusade at Carlaw Park (Eden Park was being reconstructed) between 29 March and 4 April, and nearly 60,000 flocked to Athletic Park in Wellington between 30 March and 6 April. A further 133,000 turned up at Lancaster Park during an eight-day Christchurch crusade which began on 1 April. Graham himself preached at the last two meetings in each city. These services were relayed by landline to public gatherings in Dunedin and other centres.
These numbers should have come as no surprise. The 1956 census found that just 0.5% of adult New Zealanders claimed to have no religious belief. By contrast, nearly 42% of those who responded to the 2013 census professed no religious belief.