1954 New Zealand general election

The 1954 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 31st term. It saw the governing National Party remain in office, but with a slightly reduced majority. It also saw the debut of the new Social Credit Party, which won more than eleven percent of the vote but failed to win a seat.

1954 New Zealand general election

← 1951 13 November 1954 (1954-11-13) 1957 →

All 80 seats in the House of Representatives
41 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout1,096,877 (91.4%)
  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 50 seats, 54.0% 30 seats, 45.8%
Seats won 45 35
Seat change Decrease 5 Increase 5
Popular vote 485,630 484,028
Percentage 44.3% 44.1%
Swing Decrease 9.7% Decrease 1.7%

1954 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. It had then been re-elected by a large margin amid the industrial disputes of the 1951 election. The Prime Minister, Sidney Holland, was popular in many sectors of society for his strong line against striking dockworkers and coalminers, while Labour's leader, Walter Nash, had been criticised for his failure to take a firm stand on the issue. Labour was troubled by internal disputes, with Nash subjected to an unsuccessful leadership challenge only a few months before the election. For the election, the National government adopted a "steady as she goes" approach, saying that the country was in good hands and did not need any major policy realignments.

The electionEdit

The date for the main 1954 elections was 13 November. 1,209,670 people were registered to vote, and turnout was 91.4%. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.

The following new (or reconstituted) electorates were introduced in 1954: Heretaunga, Manukau, Rotorua, Stratford, Waipa and Waitemata.[1] Two candidates, both called John Stewart, came second; in Auckland Central for National and in Eden for Labour.[2]

MPs retiring in 1954Edit

Ten MPs retired at the election, see cartoon.[3]

Party Name Electorate
Independent William Sheat Patea
National William Bodkin Central Otago
Wilfred Fortune Eden
Andy Sutherland Hauraki
Chales Bowden Karori
Alfred Murdoch Marsden
Edward Gordon Rangitīkei
Clifton Webb Rodney
Walter Broadfoot Waitomo
Labour Robert McKeen Island Bay
Bob Semple Miramar
Charles Chapman Wellington Central

Paddy Kearins also left parliament at the election. His electorate of Waimarino was abolished and he failed to gain selection to stand for Labour in the replacement electorate of Rotorua.[4] Two Labour MPs had announced their intention to retire at the 1954 election (Harry Combs MP for Onslow and Arthur Osborne MP for Onehunga) but died before the end of the parliament.[5][6]


The 1954 election saw the governing National Party re-elected with a ten-seat margin (and fewer votes than Labour), a drop from the twenty-seat margin it previously held. National won forty-five seats to the Labour Party's thirty-five. The popular vote was much closer, however, with the two parties separated by only 0.2%. No seats were won by minor party candidates or by independents, but the new Social Credit Party managed to win 11.2% of the vote, and it can be argued that Social Credit saved the National Government by providing an alternative to Labour and so minimising the two-party swing.[7]

Election results
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won change
National 79 485,630 44.3 45 −5
Labour 80 484,028 44.1 35 +5
Social Credit 79 122,573 11.2 0 ±0
Communist 8 1,134 0.10 0 ±0
Independents 9 3,474 0.40 0 ±0
Total 255 1,096,877 80

Votes summaryEdit

Popular vote
Social Credit
Parliament seats

The table below shows the results of the 1954 general election:


  National     Labour     Independent     Social Credit  

Electorate results for the 1954 New Zealand general election[8]
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Ashburton Geoff Gerard 2,292 George Glassey
Auckland Central Bill Anderton 4,093 John Weir Stewart
Avon John Mathison 4,955 Arthur Norman Stone
Awarua George Herron 3,172 J P Wyatt
Bay of Plenty Bill Sullivan 3,062 Godfrey Santon
Buller Jerry Skinner 3,348 D M Carson
Central Otago William Bodkin John George 2,074 Peter John Scott
Christchurch Central Robert Macfarlane 3,395 Oliver G. Moody
Clutha James Roy 1,490 T A Rodgers
Dunedin Central Phil Connolly 330 Marcus Anderson
Dunedin North Ethel McMillan 2,791 Helen Black[9]
Eden Wilfred Fortune Duncan Rae 8 John Stewart[nb 1]
Egmont Ernest Corbett 2,977 Roy Evans[10]
Fendalton Sidney Holland 3,004 Roy Henry McDonald
Franklin Jack Massey 4,587 Percival Peacock
Gisborne Harry Dudfield Reginald Keeling 521 Harry Dudfield
Grey Lynn Fred Hackett 4,807 Tom McGowan
Hamilton Hilda Ross 1,430 Ben Waters
Hastings Sydney Jones Ted Keating 252 Sydney Jones
Hauraki General Andy Sutherland Arthur Kinsella 2,659 Brevat William Dynes
Hawkes Bay Cyril Harker 3,109 A Stafford
Heretaunga New electorate Phil Holloway 5,058 Allan McCready
Hobson Sidney Smith 2,584 Cecil William Elvidge
Hurunui William Gillespie 2,395 Norman Kirk
Hutt Walter Nash 3,681 Clevedon Costello
Invercargill Ralph Hanan 943 William Denham
Island Bay Robert McKeen Arnold Nordmeyer 3,824 John Maurice Whitta
Karori Charles Bowden Jack Marshall 1,811 Jim Bateman
Lyttelton Harry Lake 24 Tom McGuigan[nb 2]
Manawatu Matthew Oram 2,228 Patrick Kelliher
Manukau New electorate Leon Götz 3,072 Cyril Stamp
Marlborough Tom Shand 1,635 George Allan Turner
Marsden Alfred Murdoch Don McKay 872 Mervyn Allan Hosking [nb 3]
Miramar Bob Semple Bill Fox 1,527 Robert John McConnell
Mornington Wally Hudson 3,886 Walter MacDougall
Mt Albert Warren Freer 3,226 Robert Muldoon
Napier Peter Tait Jim Edwards 720 Peter Tait
Nelson Edgar Neale 717 Stan Whitehead
New Plymouth Ernest Aderman 1,178 Clarence Robert Parker
North Shore Dean Eyre 1,395 Arthur Faulkner
Oamaru Thomas Hayman 1,358 J H Rapson
Onehunga Hugh Watt 4,389 Alfred E. Allen
Onslow Henry May 519 Wilfred Fortune
Otahuhu Leon Götz James Deas 1,806 Leonard Bradley
Otaki Jimmy Maher 963 Ernie Langford
Pahiatua Keith Holyoake 3,519 Ronald Bell
Palmerston North Blair Tennent Philip Skoglund 346 Blair Tennant
Patea William Sheat Roy Jack 662 Benjamin Winchcombe
Petone Mick Moohan 4,211 Fanny Elizabeth Soward
Ponsonby Ritchie Macdonald 3,948 Harold Barry
Raglan Hallyburton Johnstone 857 James Harrison Wilson
Rangitikei Edward Gordon Norman Shelton 2,679 Stephen Malcolm Roberton
Remuera Ronald Algie 3,544 Bob Tizard
Riccarton Angus McLagan 4,343 Balfour Grieve Dingwall
Rodney Clifton Webb Jack Scott 3,270 Arthur Hellyn
Roskill John Rae 1,652 Elizabeth Morris
Rotorua New electorate Ray Boord 822 Percy Allen
St Albans Jack Watts 608 Mick Connelly
St Kilda Jim Barnes 114 Fred Jones
Selwyn John McAlpine 2,521 Daniel Clinton
Stratford New electorate Thomas Murray 2,966 Brian Edgar Richmond
Sydenham Mabel Howard 5,560 Alma Schumacher
Tamaki Eric Halstead 1,986 Pat Curran
Tauranga George Walsh 3,448 Oliver Liddell
Timaru Clyde Carr 1,423 Vic Wilson
Waikato Geoffrey Sim 4,698 Albert Clifford Tucker
Waimate (vacant)[nb 4] Alfred Davey 1,438 Neville Pickering
Waipa New electorate Stan Goosman 4,435 Harold Francis Gallagher
Wairarapa Bert Cooksley 1,691 Bob Wilkie[13]
Waitakere Rex Mason 3,424 Jim McAllister
Waitemata New electorate Norman King 387 Hubert Morrison
Waitomo Walter Broadfoot David Seath 1,480 Vic Haines
Wallace Tom Macdonald 4,466 J W Cleary
Wanganui Joe Cotterill 305 Jack Rumbold
Wellington Central Charles Chapman Frank Kitts 627 Allan Highet
Westland Jim Kent 3,605 Mark Wallace
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Tiaki Omana 3,094 Claude Anaru[14]
Northern Maori Tapihana Paikea 4,435 Tono Waetford
Southern Maori Eruera Tirikatene 2,864 Turi Carroll
Western Maori Iriaka Rātana 6,637 William Rakeipoho Bennett[15]
Table footnotes
  1. ^ John Stewart was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  2. ^ Tom McGuigan was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  3. ^ National deselected the sitting MP (Alfred Murdoch) (q.v.) in favour of William Vallance; then Vallance had tax problems and was replaced by Don McKay. When Vallance ran as an independent candidate, the vote-splitting almost cost National the seat.[11]
  4. ^ David Campbell Kidd, the National Party MP for Waimate, died less than two months before the election, leaving his seat vacant.[12]


  1. ^ Norton 1988, pp. 7–9.
  2. ^ Norton 1988, pp. 193, 220.
  3. ^ "The First Eleven (retiring MPs)". National Library of New Zealand.
  4. ^ "Party Influence Alleged In Candidate's Selection". The Evening Post. 2 October 1954.
  5. ^ "Mr. H. E. Combs, M.P., Dead". The Evening Post. 12 June 1954. p. 13.
  6. ^ "Mr Osborne Dies After Long Illness". The New Zealand Herald. 16 November 1953. p. 10.
  7. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 66.
  8. ^ Norton 1988, pp. ?.
  9. ^ Norton 1988, p. 214.
  10. ^ Norton 1988, p. 222.
  11. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 235.
  12. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 210.
  13. ^ Espiner, Guyon (3 March 2012). "Profile: Labour deputy Grant Robertson". New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  14. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 353.
  15. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 355.


  • 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 published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.