1951 New Zealand general election

The 1951 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 30th term. The First National Government was re-elected, with the National Party increasing its parliamentary majority over the opposition Labour Party. This was the last time until the 2020 election that a party was elected to majority government of New Zealand by receiving a majority of the vote.

1951 New Zealand general election

← 1949 1 September 1951 (1951-09-01) 1954 →

All 80 seats in the New Zealand Parliament
41 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout1,069,791 (89.1%)
  First party Second party
  Sidney George Holland (1953) 2.png Walter Nash (ca 1940s).jpg
Leader Sidney Holland Walter Nash
Party National Labour
Leader since 26 November 1940 17 January 1951
Leader's seat Fendalton Hutt
Last election 46 seats, 51.9% 34 seats, 47.2%
Seats won 50 30
Seat change Increase 4 Decrease 4
Popular vote 577,630 490,143
Percentage 54.0% 45.8%
Swing Increase 2.1% Decrease 1.4%

1951 New Zealand general election - Results.svg
Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

Sidney Holland

Subsequent Prime Minister

Sidney Holland


The National Party had formed its first administration after the 1949 elections, in which it had ended four terms of government by the Labour Party.[1] The National government, with Sidney Holland as Prime Minister, had undertaken a number of economic and constitutional reforms, although it had not seriously modified the new social welfare system which Labour had introduced. Labour's leader, Peter Fraser, had died in December 1950 after a long period of poor health, and had been replaced in January 1951 by Walter Nash. Nash had been Minister of Finance for the duration of the first Labour government.[2]

The most significant issue in the 1951 elections was the growing industrial unrest of the time, particularly the ongoing dockworkers dispute. Holland condemned the strikers, calling the situation "industrial anarchy". The Labour Party, under Nash, attempted to take a moderate position in the dispute, but ended up displeasing both sides. Holland, seeking a mandate to respond strongly to the strike, called a snap election. Another issue was high inflation, which frustrated voters and without the distraction of the strike, might have threatened Holland's government at the scheduled election for 1952.[3]

MPs retiring in 1951Edit

Two MPs retired at the election, one each from Labour and National.

Party Name Electorate
Labour Bill Parry Arch Hill
National Frederick Doidge Tauranga

The electionEdit

The date for the main 1951 elections was 1 September, and for the first time, elections to the four Maori seats were held on the same day.[4] The 1951 elections were also the first under the new regulations which required elections to be held on a Saturday. 1,205,762 people were registered to vote, and turnout was 89.1%.[5] The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.[6]


Party standingsEdit

The 1951 election saw the governing National Party re-elected with a twenty-seat margin, a substantial improvement on the twelve-seat margin it previously held. National won fifty seats compared with the Labour Party's thirty.[6] The popular vote was closer, however, with National winning 54% to Labour's 46%.[7] No seats were won by minor party candidates or by independents.[8] No party then captured a majority of the vote until the 2020 election, when Labour won 50.01%.[7]

Election results
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won change
National 80 577,630 54.00 50 +4
Labour 80 490,143 45.80 30 −4
Communist 4 528 0.05 0 ±0
Others 7 1,490 0.14 0 ±0
Total 171 1,069,791 80

Votes summaryEdit

Popular Vote
Parliament seats

  Labour     National  

Electorate results for the 1951 New Zealand general election[9]
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Arch Hill Bill Parry John Stewart 3,965 Paddy Hope
Ashburton Geoff Gerard 2,867 William Erle Rose
Auckland Central Bill Anderton 2,168 Peter Hillyer
Avon John Mathison 4,212 Douglas Warren Russell
Awarua George Herron 3,755 Neville Pickering
Bay of Plenty Bill Sullivan 4,047 Godfrey Santon
Brooklyn Arnold Nordmeyer 1,826 Charles William Clift
Buller Jerry Skinner 1,227 Phil McDonald
Central Otago William Bodkin 3,620 T A Rodgers
Christchurch Central Robert Macfarlane 4,103 Alma Schumacher
Clutha James Roy 3,583 J M Sanders
Dunedin Central Phil Connolly 373 Walter MacDougall
Dunedin North Robert Walls 307 Donald Cameron
Eden Wilfred Fortune 2,802 John Ronald Burfitt
Egmont Ernest Corbett 4,896 Brian Edgar Richmond
Fendalton Sidney Holland 4,366 P J Alley
Franklin Jack Massey 5,358 Arthur Faulkner
Gisborne Reginald Keeling Harry Dudfield 338 Reginald Keeling
Grey Lynn Fred Hackett 3,813 Harold Barry
Hamilton Hilda Ross 2,252 Ben Waters
Hastings Sydney Jones 1,138 Henry Edward Beattie
Hauraki General Andy Sutherland 4,468 Brevat William Dynes
Hawke's Bay Cyril Harker 4,153 A Lowe
Hobson Sidney Smith 5,337 Norman King
Hurunui William Gillespie 2,921 W E Cassidy
Hutt Walter Nash 2,248 John Andrews
Invercargill Ralph Hanan 2,123 F G Spurdle
Island Bay Robert McKeen 1,680 James Duncan
Karori Charles Bowden 3,453 Jim Bateman
Lyttelton Terry McCombs Harry Lake 133 Terry McCombs[note 1]
Manawatu Matthew Oram 3,465 B A Rodgers
Marlborough Tom Shand 2,452 Ted Meachen
Marsden Alfred Murdoch 4,001 Mervyn Allan Hosking
Miramar Bob Semple 301 Cuthbert Taylor
Mornington Wally Hudson 3,783 Richard Philling
Mount Albert Warren Freer 604 Reg Judson
Mount Victoria Jack Marshall 2,198 Frank Kitts
Napier Tommy Armstrong Peter Tait 44 Tommy Armstrong[note 2]
Nelson Edgar Neale 2,831 Stan Whitehead
New Plymouth Ernest Aderman 2,335 Clarence Robert Parker
North Shore Dean Eyre 2,155 Richard Wrathall
Oamaru Thomas Hayman 1,315 C J Ryan
Onehunga Arthur Osborne 1,966 Leonard Bradley
Onslow Harry Combs 1,106 John S Meadowcroft[10]
Otahuhu Leon Götz 2,128 James Deas
Otaki Jimmy Maher 1,142 Phil Holloway
Pahiatua Keith Holyoake 4,598 Owen Jones
Palmerston North Blair Tennent 200 Joe Hodgens[note 3]
Parnell Duncan Rae 1,587 Hugh Watt[11]
Patea William Sheat 2,467 Frederick William Finer
Petone Mick Moohan 2,135 Norm Croft
Piako Stan Goosman 6,364 Gilbert Parsons Kenah
Ponsonby Ritchie Macdonald 1,504 Peter Dempsey[12]
Raglan Hallyburton Johnstone 1,766 James Harrison Wilson
Rangitikei Edward Gordon 3,677 F A Dalzell
Remuera Ronald Algie 5,346 Bob Tizard
Riccarton Angus McLagan 2,265 Eric Philip Wills[13]
Rodney Clifton Webb 4,893 Arthur Laurence Leaming
Roskill John Rae 440 Pat Curran
St Albans Jack Watts 1,415 John Bernard Mora
St Kilda Fred Jones Jim Barnes 336 Fred Jones
Selwyn John McAlpine 1,836 Jim Barclay
Sydenham Mabel Howard 4,403 Albert Hugh Stott
Tamaki Eric Halstead 1,461 Tom Skinner
Tauranga Frederick Doidge George Walsh 5,400 Hillary Joseph Pickett
Timaru Clyde Carr 564 William Leslie Richards
Waikato Geoffrey Sim 6,369 William Henry Bayly
Waimarino Paddy Kearins 67 Arthur MacPherson
Waimate David Kidd 2,232 A G Braddick
Wairarapa Bert Cooksley 2,032 George Anders Hansen
Waitakere Rex Mason 641 Robert Tapper
Waitomo Walter Broadfoot 5,286 J Dwyer
Wallace Tom Macdonald 5,060 J W Cleary
Wanganui Joe Cotterill 226 Ernest Victor O'Keefe
Wellington Central Charles Chapman 277 Berta Burns
Westland Jim Kent 2,325 Isabella Catherine Brown
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Tiaki Omana 3,706 Turi Carroll
Northern Maori Tapihana Paikea 2,132 James Henare[14]
Southern Maori Eruera Tirikatene 659 William Beaton
Western Maori Iriaka Rātana 7,352 Hoeroa Marumaru

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ Terry McCombs was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  2. ^ Tommy Armstrong was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  3. ^ Joe Hodgens was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included


  1. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 58.
  2. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 82–83.
  3. ^ Gustafson, Barry. "Holland, Sidney George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  4. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 138.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 286.
  6. ^ a b Wilson 1985, pp. 287–288.
  7. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 290.
  8. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 288.
  9. ^ "The New Zealand Official Year-Book, 1951–52". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  10. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 378.
  11. ^ Norton 1988, p. 314.
  12. ^ Gustafson 1986, pp. 360f.
  13. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 390.
  14. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 247.


  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • Norton, Clifford (1988). New Zealand Parliamentary Election Results 1946–1987: Occasional Publications No 1, Department of Political Science. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington. ISBN 0-475-11200-8.
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.