1986 Wellington City mayoral election

The 1986 Wellington City mayoral election was part of the New Zealand local elections held that same year. In 1986, elections were held for the Mayor of Wellington plus other local government positions including twenty-one city councillors. The polling was conducted using the standard first-past-the-post electoral method.

1986 Wellington City mayoral election
Wellington COA.gif
← 1983 11 October 1986 1989 →
Turnout37,311 (41.77%)
  Jim Belich, 1986.jpg Ian Lawrence, 1986.jpg
Candidate Jim Belich Ian Lawrence
Party Labour Citizens'
Popular vote 18,873 16,519
Percentage 50.58 44.27

Mayor before election

Ian Lawrence

Elected Mayor

Jim Belich


The election saw one-term Mayor Ian Lawrence defeated by local advertising agent Jim Belich. 1986 also saw the Labour Party win their first ever majority of seats on the Council.[1] Electoral reforms were implemented at the 1986 municipal elections, the method of electing councillors at large which had been used since 1901 was replaced with a ward system of local electoral districts.[2]

A major issue faced by the council during the term was the increasingly unpopular practice of raw sewage discharge into the sea. The two main candidates, Lawrence and Belich, had been friends for nearly twenty years adding a more personal element to the election than normal.[3] The two had first met in the late-1960s when Lawrence, as a member of the Jaycees, helped organise a fundraising international ball for a UNICEF, which Belich was president of. Both agreed to a "peace pact" to fight fair in the election.[4] Highlighting the unpopular council sewage scheme both the Labour Party and the Wellington Clean Water Campaign ran a hostile ad campaign against Lawrence and the Citizens' Association. Lawrence responded, stressing that the sewage scheme was a collective decision of the council, not a personal decision of his. In the last week of the campaign Labour launched a series of particularly controversial advertisements on Lawrence and the council. One newspaper ad showed a toilet on the beach, linking to the clean water campaign to stop raw sewage discharge at Moa Point. Lawrence was angered by the attack which reneged on a pact between the two to fight fair. Belich professed that he did not intend for any personal offence.[5]

Ultimately Belich defeated Lawrence by over 2,000 votes, a significant turnaround from Lawrence's 8,000 vote win in 1983.[6] The sewage issue was key to the result which Lawrence said he was both surprised and disappointed that voters judged him on that issue alone. He was also critical of the amount of campaign spending on advertising, with his opponents spending more than double what he did. The hostility of the sewage ads left him feeling bitter, but did not blame Belich personally.[7]


The following table gives the election results:

1986 Wellington mayoral election[8]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Labour Jim Belich 18,873 50.58
Citizens' Ian Lawrence 16,519 44.27 +4.97
Independent Norm Thomas 1,344 3.60
McGillicuddy Serious Mark Servian 260 0.69
Private Enterprise Frank Moncur 251 0.67 +0.27
Informal votes 294 0.78 +0.16
Majority 2,354 6.30
Turnout 37,017 41.77 +4.18
Registered electors 89,328

Ward resultsEdit

Candidates were also elected from wards to the Wellington City Council.[8]

Party/ticket Councillors
Labour 11
Citizens' 9
Independent 1


  1. ^ Franks & McAloon 2016, p. 225.
  2. ^ "Local elections on ward basis". The Evening Post. 9 October 1984.
  3. ^ "Mayor, Belich — old friends". The Dominion. 17 February 1986.
  4. ^ "Pact for clean fight". The Evening Post. 19 August 1986.
  5. ^ MacDonald, Nikki (19 September 2015). "Sir James Belich - from ad-man to capital clean-up merchant". Stuff. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  6. ^ "'New interest' as electors vote changes". The Dominion. 13 October 1986. p. 1.
  7. ^ Busby, Anita (13 October 1986). "Lawrence bows out with a brave face". The Dominion. p. 5.
  8. ^ a b Bly, Ross (24 October 1986). Declaration of Election Results (Report). Wellington City Council.


  • Franks, Peter; McAloon, Jim (2016). Labour: The New Zealand Labour Party 1916–2016. Wellington: Victoria University Press. ISBN 978-1-77656-074-5.