1972 New Zealand general election

The 1972 New Zealand general election was held on 25 November to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.

1972 New Zealand general election

← 1969 25 November 1972 (1972-11-25) 1975 →

All 87 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
44 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout1,340,168 (88.94%)
  First party Second party
  Norman Kirk, crop.jpg Jack Marshall, 1972.jpg
Leader Norman Kirk Jack Marshall
Party Labour National
Leader since 9 December 1965 7 February 1972
Leader's seat Sydenham Karori
Last election 39 seats, 44.2% 45 seats, 45.2%
Seats won 55 32
Seat change Increase 16 Decrease 13
Popular vote 677,669 581,422
Percentage 48.4% 41.5%
Swing Increase 4.2% Decrease 3.7%

1972 New Zealand general election - Results.svg
Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

Jack Marshall

Subsequent Prime Minister

Norman Kirk


The National Party had been in office since the 1960 election, when it had defeated the ruling Labour Party, led by Walter Nash. The Second Labour Government was the shortest-lasting of all New Zealand governments to that day; in contrast, the Second National Government, led for the majority of its tenure by Keith Holyoake, would be re-elected three times. National's policies were focused around stability and a "steady as she goes" approach, but Holyoake's Government was increasingly perceived as tired and worn-out. In February 1972, Holyoake stood aside and was replaced by his deputy, Jack Marshall, who took steps to reinvigorate the party.

Meanwhile, Norman Kirk had been at the helm of Labour since 1965. In this time, he had been modernising and updating the Labour Party, but narrowly lost the 1969 election. Kirk slimmed and dressed to improve his image, and visited several overseas Labour parties to broaden his knowledge. He activated a "spokesman" or shadow cabinet system to spread the responsibility, but it was difficult to avoid one composed largely of Auckland and Christchurch members. Despite the improvements, commentators speculated whether National would pull off another cliffhanger victory. Economic recession and voter fatigue had hurt National at the polls. Labour's slogan was "It's Time – Time for a change, time for Labour", which expertly captured the national mood.

A deciding election issue was the proposed raising of the levels of lakes Manapouri and Te Anau as part of the construction of the Manapouri Power Station to supply the aluminium smelter in Bluff with electricity. National wanted to proceed with the work but Labour pledged to keep the lake levels as they are. It became a deciding issue, with four National incumbents from Otago and Southland losing their electorates (Awarua, Invercargill, Otago Central, and Oamaru).[1][2]

MPs retiring in 1972Edit

Nine National MPs and one Labour MP intended to retire at the end of the 36th Parliament.

Party Name Electorate
National John Rae Eden
Alfred E. Allen Franklin
Leslie Munro Hamilton West
Don McKay Marsden
Norman Shelton Rangitīkei
Rona Stevenson Taupo
George Walsh Tauranga
David Seath Waitomo
Dan Riddiford Wellington Central
Labour John Mathison Avon

1972 electoral redistributionEdit

Since the 1969 election, the number of electorates in the South Island was fixed at 25, with continued faster population growth in the North Island leading to an increase in the number of general electorates. Including the four Māori electorates, there had been 80 electorates since the 1902 election.[3] This increased to 84 electorates through the 1969 election.[4] The 1972 electoral redistribution saw three additional general seats created for the North Island, bringing the total number of electorates to 87.[5]

Together with increased urbanisation in Christchurch and Nelson, the changes proved very disruptive to existing electorates. Only two South Island electorates were not altered by the redistribution (Clutha and Lyttelton).[6] Only eight of the North Island electorates were not altered (Franklin, Gisborne, Hobson, Island Bay, Miramar, North Shore, Tamaki, and Wairarapa).[5]

In the South Island, three electorates were abolished (Buller, Westland, and Selwyn), and three electorates were newly created (Rakaia, Tasman, and West Coast).[7] In the North Island, five electorates were abolished (Hauraki, Marsden, Otaki, Waimarino, and Waitomo), two electorates were recreated (Coromandel and Otahuhu), and six electorates were newly created (East Coast Bays, Hamilton East, Kapiti, King Country, Ruahine, and Whangarei).[8]

Election dayEdit

Kirk campaigning in Levin

The date for the 1972 elections was 25 November, a Saturday. 1,583,256 people were registered to vote. There was a turnout of 89.1%, slightly higher than the previous election and considerably higher than the following one. The number of electorates being contested was 87.[5]


The 1972 election saw the Labour Party defeat the governing National Party, winning 55 seats to National's 32. Labour was therefore able to form its first government since 1960, with Norman Kirk becoming Prime Minister. The second National government thus gave way to the third Labour government. No minor parties managed to gain seats, and no independents were elected. There were 1,583,256 electors on the roll, with 1,401,152 (88.50%) voting.

Map of electorates.
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 87 677,669 48.37 55 +16
National 87 581,422 41.50 32 -13
Social Credit 87 93,231 6.65 - ±0
Values 42 27,467 1.96 - ±0
New Democratic 86 8,783 0.63 - ±0
Liberal Reform 24 4,077 0.29 - ±0
Socialist Unity 5 444 0.03 - ±0
National Socialist 1 35 0.00 - ±0
Independent 43 8,503 0.61 - ±0
Total 456 1,401,152 87 +3

Votes summaryEdit

Popular Vote
Social Credit
New Democratic
Liberal Reform
Parliament seats

The table below shows the results of the 1972 general election:


  National     Labour     Social Credit     Independent  

Electorate results for the 1972 New Zealand general election
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Auckland Central Norman Douglas 2,009 Clive Edwards
Avon John Mathison Mary Batchelor 6,055 Gordon Thomas
Awarua Hugh Templeton Aubrey Begg 723 Hugh Templeton
Bay of Plenty Percy Allen 2,189 G B Mead
Birkenhead Norman King 1,533 Don McKinnon
Christchurch Central Bruce Barclay 5,103 Barbara Beaven
Clutha Peter Gordon 2,131 Les McKay[9]
Coromandel New electorate Leo Schultz 2,181 Alyson Murphy
Dunedin Central Brian MacDonell 3,771 Fred O'Neill[10]
Dunedin North Ethel McMillan 4,020 John Wallis[11]
East Coast Bays New electorate Frank Gill 979 Brian Pauling
Eden John Rae Mike Moore 788 Mary Kidd[12]
Egmont Venn Young 2,928 Robert Logan Peck
Franklin Alfred E. Allen Bill Birch 4,188 Geoff Braybrooke
Gisborne Esme Tombleson Trevor Davey 488 Esme Tombleson[13]
Grey Lynn Eddie Isbey 5,487 Jens Meder
Hamilton East New electorate Rufus Rogers 397 Ross Jansen
Hamilton West Leslie Munro Dorothy Jelicich 544 Derek Heather
Hastings Duncan MacIntyre Richard Mayson 1,148 Duncan MacIntyre
Hawkes Bay Richard Harrison 600 David Butcher [14]
Henderson Martyn Finlay 4,221 Ross C. MacFarlane[15]
Heretaunga Ron Bailey 2,964 John Schnellenberg[16]
Hobson Logan Sloane 1,148 Howard Manning
Hutt Trevor Young 3,397 Michael Fowler
Invercargill John Chewings J. B. Munro 765 John Chewings
Island Bay Gerald O'Brien 3,495 Bruce Farland
Kapiti New electorate Frank O'Flynn 706 Barry Brill
Karori Jack Marshall 4,408 Adam Floyd
King Country New electorate Jim Bolger 1,240 Brent Clifton Sakey
Lyttelton Tom McGuigan 3,235 John Blumsky
Manawatu Les Gandar Allan McCready 427 Mervyn Hancock
Mangere Colin Moyle 3,939 Stanley Lawson
Manukau Roger Douglas 2,844 R O Price
Manurewa Phil Amos 2,397 Pat Baker[17]
Marlborough Ian Brooks 1,290 Bruno Dalliessi
Miramar Bill Young 434 Brian Edwards
Mt Albert Warren Freer 3,980 John Malcolm
Napier Gordon Christie 3,725 Merle Bell
Nelson Stan Whitehead 1,933 Ian McWhannell
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 4,312 Gordon McDermott
New Plymouth Ron Barclay 1,296 Terry Boon
North Shore George Gair 2,821 Colin Chiles
Oamaru Allan Dick Bill Laney 390 Allan Dick
Onehunga Hugh Watt 4,835 Peter Blakeborough
Otago Central Murray Rose Ian Quigley 1,483 Murray Rose
Otahuhu New electorate Bob Tizard 6,403 D C Brooker
Pahiatua Keith Holyoake 4,359 L J Cairns
Pakuranga Bob Tizard Gavin Downie 1,802 J B Irwin
Palmerston North Joe Walding 1,766 Paul William Mitchell
Papanui Bert Walker 1,734 Mollie Clark
Petone Fraser Colman 5,340 Nick Ursin
Piako Jack Luxton 4,472 I L Howell
Porirua Gerry Wall 4,399 Ross Doughty
Raglan Douglas Carter 1,350 Allan John Smith
Rakaia New electorate Colin McLachlan 2,133 Alex Clark
Rangiora Lorrie Pickering Kerry Burke 866 Adrian Hiatt
Rangitikei Norman Shelton Roy Jack 3,037 N R Pearce [nb 1]
Remuera Allan Highet 6,118 Rex Stanton
Riccarton Eric Holland 2,164 David Jackson
Rodney Peter Wilkinson 4,507 Peter Trim
Roskill Arthur Faulkner 4,439 John Priestley[18]
Rotorua Harry Lapwood 786 N F Pachoud
Ruahine New electorate Les Gandar 552 Taylor Samuel Mihaere
St Albans Roger Drayton 3,066 Ron Doak
St Kilda Bill Fraser 5,615 Charles Kirby
South Canterbury Rob Talbot 2,035 David Braithwaite
Stratford David Thomson 3,068 D G Turney
Sydenham Norman Kirk 6,986 John Burn
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 4,590 Alan Hedger
Tasman New electorate Bill Rowling 1,834 Gerald Hunt
Taupo Rona Stevenson Jack Ridley 783 James Frederick Higgins
Tauranga George Walsh Keith Allen 2,215 Henry Uttinger[19]
Timaru Sir Basil Arthur 3,954 Dave Walker
Waikato Lance Adams-Schneider 4,208 Bob Reese
Wairarapa Jack Williams 1,086 Ben Couch
Waitemata Frank Gill Michael Bassett 2,544 Ray La Varis
Wallace Brian Talboys 2,904 Ian Lamont
Wanganui Bill Tolhurst Russell Marshall 2,879 Bill Tolhurst
Wellington Central Dan Riddiford Ken Comber 27 David Shand [nb 2]
West Coast New electorate Paddy Blanchfield 4,242 Barry Dallas
Western Hutt Henry May 2,392 Julian Watts [nb 3][20]
Whangarei New electorate Murray Smith 1,180 Lawrence Carr
Wigram Mick Connelly 5,255 David Cox
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Paraone Reweti 6,190 Koro Dewes
Northern Maori Matiu Rata 5,260 Graham Latimer
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 8,251 Kate Parahi
Western Maori Koro Wētere 8,686 R Te A H Rawiri

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ Bruce Beetham came third for Social Credit in Rangitikei
  2. ^ Shand was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  3. ^ Julian Watts was a son of Jack Watts


  1. ^ Nathan, Simon (2 March 2009). "8. Environmental activism, 1966–1987 - Conservation – a history". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 17 October 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  2. ^ White, Mike (30 June 2019). "Saving Manapōuri: The campaign that changed a nation". North & South. Archived from the original on 27 May 2020. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  3. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 67.
  4. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 111.
  5. ^ a b c McRobie 1989, p. 115.
  6. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 116.
  7. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 112, 116.
  8. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 111, 115.
  9. ^ Norton 1988, p. 210.
  10. ^ Norton 1988, p. 213.
  11. ^ Norton 1988, p. 215.
  12. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 371.
  13. ^ Norton 1988, p. 229.
  14. ^ Norton 1988, p. 241.
  15. ^ Norton 1988, p. 243.
  16. ^ "From war refugee to liberal thinker, businessman and books man". Stuff.co.nz. 4 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 October 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  17. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 354.
  18. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 382.
  19. ^ Norton 1988, p. 360.
  20. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 388.


  • Chapman, George (1980). The Years of Lightning. Wellington: AH & AW Reed. ISBN 0-589-01346-7.
  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • Templeton, Ian; Eunson, Keith (1972). In the Balance: Election '72. Dunedin: John McIndoe.
  • Edwards, Brian, ed. (1973). Right Out: Labour Victory '72. Reed. ISBN 0-589-00801-3.
  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.
  • 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.