1987 New Zealand general election

The 1987 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 42nd sitting of the New Zealand Parliament. The governing New Zealand Labour Party, led by Prime Minister David Lange, was re-elected for a second term, although the Opposition National Party made gains. The election also saw the elimination of the Democratic Party (formerly the Social Credit Party) from Parliament, leaving Labour and National as the only parties represented.

1987 New Zealand general election

← 1984 15 August 1987 (1987-08-15) 1990 →

All 97 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
49 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
David Lange (1992).jpg
Bolger, 1992.jpg
Leader David Lange Jim Bolger
Party Labour National
Leader since 3 February 1983 26 March 1986
Leader's seat Mangere King Country
Last election 56 seats, 42.98% 37 seats, 35.89%
Seats before 55 38
Seats won 57 40
Seat change Increase 2 Increase 2
Popular vote 878,448 806,305
Percentage 47.96% 44.02%
Swing Increase 4.98% Increase 8.13%

1987 New Zealand general election - Results.svg
Results of the election.

Prime Minister before election

David Lange

Subsequent Prime Minister

David Lange

It marked the first time that a Labour Government had been reelected to a second term since 1938 and the first to be reelected overall since 1946.


Before the election, the Labour Party (in government) held 56 seats, giving it an absolute majority in Parliament. The National Party (in opposition) held 37 seats. The Democrats, a small party devoted to the principles of Social Credit, held two seats.

Of particular importance in the election were the economic reforms being undertaken by Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance. These reforms, sometimes known as "Rogernomics", involved monetarist approaches to controlling inflation, corporatisation of government departments, and the removal of tariffs and subsidies. All these things were strongly opposed by many traditional Labour supporters, who saw them as a betrayal of the party's left-wing principles. Many commentators believed that public anger over Rogernomics could cost the government the election.

Another matter of importance, and perhaps one which enabled Labour to survive public dissatisfaction, was the nuclear issue. In the previous parliamentary term, New Zealand had adopted legislation which prevented nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered ships entering New Zealand, a move which provoked an angry reaction from New Zealand's allies in the ANZUS treaty. The National Party intended to revoke the ban, but the New Zealand public were supportive of it. Labour's support for the ban is often considered[by whom?] to be an important factor in the party's re-election.

National was also bitterly divided, with some supporting the Rogernomics reforms, but MPs such as former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon bitterly opposed. Muldoon had undermined his successor as party leader, Jim McLay, who was replaced by his deputy Jim Bolger in 1986. Bolger was more centrist, but National still struggled to be seen as an alternative government.

Electoral changesEdit

The 1987 electoral redistribution took the continued population growth in the North Island into account, and two additional general electorates were created, bringing the total number of electorates to 97. In the South Island, the shift of population to Christchurch had continued.[1] Overall, three electorates were newly created (Clevedon, Maramarua, and Titirangi), three electorates were recreated (Albany, Coromandel, and Hobson), and four electorates were abolished (Franklin, Hauraki, Rodney, and Waitakere). All of those electorates were in the North Island. Changes in the South Island were restricted to boundary changes.[2]

Election dayEdit

The election was held on 15 August, and 2,114,656 people were registered to vote.[3] Turnout was 89.1%, somewhat lower than the 1984 election.

Summary of resultsEdit

The election saw the Labour Party win 57 seats, enough for it to retain its outright majority. Labour held two more seats than after the previous election. The National Party won 40 seats, an increase of three. It was possible for both parties to increase their number of seats partly due to the disappearance of the Democrats and partly due to the increase in the total number of seats.

Although Labour emerged from the election with a 17-seat lead over National, the difference between each party's vote count was considerably smaller. Labour's share of the vote was 48.0% (up from 43.0% in 1984), while National's was 44.0% (up from 35.5%). While Labour did retain its lead, the gap between Labour and National closed by a larger extent than the seat count would indicate.

The Democrats, despite winning 5.7% of the total vote, did not win any electorates, including the two that they had held before the election. The Democrats have not regained parliamentary representation under their own name since losing it in these elections, although they did manage to enter parliament as part of the larger Alliance in 1996.

The New Zealand Party, which had gained 12.2% of the vote in the previous election, performed poorly, gaining less than 0.1% support.[4]

Electoral petitionEdit

The election night result for Wairarapa was for National by 65 votes. The final official count later gave the seat to the incumbent, Reg Boorman of the Labour Party, by a margin of seven votes, but a judicial recount reduced that to only one vote. But on 12 July 1988, following a petition to the Electoral Court, Wyatt Creech of the National Party was declared elected by a margin of 34 votes (9,994 to 9,960). The petition was supported initially by MPs Roger McClay and Winston Peters (who had been involved in challenges in Taupo and Hunua) but not by the party hierarchy, according to Creech's account in a book by Ross Meurant).[5]

Detailed resultsEdit

Party totalsEdit

Election results
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 97 878,448 47.96 57 +1
National 97 806,305 44.02 40 +3
Democrats 97 105,091 5.74 0 −2
Mana Motuhake 7 9,789 0.53 0
NZ Party 32 5,381 0.29 0
McGillicuddy Serious 19 2,990 0.16 0
Values 9 1,624 0.08 0
Independents 5 11,873 0.64 0
Others 68 20,065 1.11 0
Total 424 1,831,777 97 +2

Votes summaryEdit

Popular Vote
Parliament seats

There were 97 seats being contested, two more than were in the previous parliament. All seats were won by one of the two major parties.

The Labour Party, which was in government, won 57 seats, giving it a majority. Most of the seats won by Labour were in urban areas, following the party's typical pattern. Labour was particularly strong in the Wellington region, where it won all ten urban seats. It was also strong in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, the other three urban centres, as well as in smaller cities such as Hamilton, New Plymouth, Nelson, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. Labour also retained its traditional dominance in the Maori seats, winning all four by large margins.

The National Party, also following its traditional patterns, was strongest in rural areas, winning the vast majority of seats in these regions. The party's primary wins in urban areas were in Auckland, with the party taking six seats. The party also won a number of seats in smaller cities, such as Rotorua, Tauranga, Invercargill and Whangarei. The party performed poorly in the Maori electorates, coming third in all four.

While no minor parties managed to win an electorate, several did manage to gain second place, outperforming one of the major parties but being defeated by the other. The Democrats (formerly Social Credit) was the strongest of the minor parties, coming second in five electorates. Two electorates, East Coast Bays and Pakuranga, were held by the Democrats prior to the election, but were narrowly lost to National candidates. In the other electorates (Coromandel, Rangitikei and Wanganui) the Democrats were the challengers. In the four Maori electorates, the Mana Motuhake party gained second place. Its best result, 31.6%, was obtained in Northern Maori. The New Zealand Party also performed strongly in some electorates, although not as strongly as in the previous election.

Independent candidates did not perform well in the 1987 election, with none of them winning a seat or even placing second.

The tables below shows the results of the 1987 general election:


 Labour    National    Democrats    Mana Motuhake  

Electorate results for the 1987 New Zealand general election
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Albany New electorate Don McKinnon 1,658 Chris Carter
Ashburton Rob Talbot Jenny Shipley 4,935 Ian Maxwell
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 7,355 Stephen Mayer
Avon Mary Batchelor Larry Sutherland 6,322 Wendy Rush
Awarua Rex Austin Jeff Grant 2,480 Heather Simpson
Bay of Islands Neill Austin John Carter 2,123 C S Robinson
Birkenhead Jim McLay Jenny Kirk 2,220 Barry Gustafson
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer 6,805 Graham Burnett
Christchurch North Mike Moore 4,698 Brendan McNeill
Clevedon New electorate Warren Kyd 827 Lee Goffin
Clutha Robin Gray 5,541 Holly Russell
Coromandel New electorate Graeme Lee 3,765 Alasdair Thompson
Dunedin North Stan Rodger 6,534 Sean Davison
Dunedin West Clive Matthewson 4,547 Ian McMeeking
East Cape Anne Fraser 246 H T Gardiner
East Coast Bays Gary Knapp Murray McCully 311 Gary Knapp
Eastern Hutt Trevor Young 4,740 P W Pattison
Eden Richard Northey 3,404 Hiwi Tauroa
Fendalton Philip Burdon 311 Neil Cherry
Gisborne Allan Wallbank 2,759 Georgina Tattersfield
Glenfield Judy Keall 1,900 David Schnauer
Hamilton East Bill Dillon 1,671 Sandra Shearer
Hamilton West Trevor Mallard 1,235 D G S Simes
Hastings David Butcher 2,307 Jeff Whittaker
Hawkes Bay Bill Sutton 859 Michael Laws
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 2,554 John Allen
Hobson New electorate Ross Meurant 4,998 I J Melville
Horowhenua Annette King 1,550 Geoff Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones Rob Munro 552 David Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn Elizabeth Tennet 7,313 Sandra Clarke
Kaimai Bruce Townshend Robert Anderson 2,307 Henry Uttinger
Kaipara Lockwood Smith 5,797 Ms I A Hutchings
Kapiti Margaret Shields 2,760 Roger Sowry
King Country Jim Bolger 5,954 Leo Menefy
Lyttelton Ann Hercus Peter Simpson 3,733 Philip Hall
Manawatu Michael Cox David Robinson 131 Michael Cox[nb 1]
Mangere David Lange 6,019 Ron Jeffery
Manurewa Roger Douglas 3,052 G Cunningham
Maramarua New electorate Bill Birch 5,729 Brian Dent
Marlborough Doug Kidd 2,402 Barbara Hutchison
Matamata Jack Luxton John Luxton 6,926 D W McGregor
Miramar Peter Neilsen 4,061 Ian Macfarlane
Mount Albert Helen Clark 5,337 Rob Wheeler
Napier Geoff Braybrooke 5,425 Ashley Church
Nelson Philip Woollaston 5,467 Bob Straight
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 4,369 Dick Berry
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander Harry Duynhoven 337 Tony Friedlander
North Shore George Gair 920 Graeme Ransom
Ohariu Peter Dunne 4,492 David Lloyd
Onehunga Fred Gerbic 3,329 Andrew Stanley
Otago Warren Cooper 1,961 Calvin Fisher
Otara Colin Moyle 2,409 Trevor Rogers
Pahiatua John Falloon 2,083 Margo Martindale
Pakuranga Neil Morrison Maurice Williamson 2,018 Neil Morrison
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene 3,237 Paul Curry
Panmure Bob Tizard 4,247 T J C Elliott
Papakura Merv Wellington 2,894 Geoff Summers
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey Ross Robertson 2,689 Howard Martin
Pencarrow Fraser Colman Sonja Davies 1,851 Andrew Harvey
Porirua Gerry Wall Graham Kelly 3,531 A L Gadsby
Raglan Simon Upton 3,271 Olivia Scarletti-Longley
Rangiora Jim Gerard 2,132 Chris Constable
Rangitikei Denis Marshall 4,039 Bruce Beetham
Remuera Doug Graham 406 Judith Tizard
Roskill Phil Goff 2,437 Bob Foulkes
Rotorua Paul East 2,425 Rosemary Michie
St Albans David Caygill 4,521 Andrew Cowie
St Kilda Michael Cullen 5,692 Lyndon Weggery
Selwyn Ruth Richardson 2,962 Bill Woods
Sydenham Jim Anderton[nb 2] 6,436 Judith Harrington
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 1,947 Carl Harding
Taranaki Roger Maxwell 6,313 Patrick Jackson
Tarawera Ian McLean 3,577 Malcolm Moore
Tasman Ken Shirley 1,012 Gerald Hunt
Tauranga Winston Peters 2,451 Ms J M Seddon
Te Atatu Michael Bassett 2,249 Brian Neeson
Timaru Maurice McTigue 857 Gary Clarke
Titirangi New electorate Ralph Maxwell 3,954 John McIntosh
Tongariro Noel Scott 2,370 Ian Peters
Waikaremoana Roger McClay 3,810 T K Stewart
Waikato Rob Storey 4,155 Bruce Raitt
Waipa Katherine O'Regan 6,303 Ms L F Holmes
Wairarapa Reg Boorman Wyatt Creech[nb 3] 34 Reg Boorman
Waitaki Jim Sutton 89 Duncan Taylor
Waitotara Venn Young 5,949 Ms R F Stewart
Wallace Derek Angus 7,594 B O Julian
Wanganui Russell Marshall 248 Terry Heffernan
Wellington Central Fran Wilde 5,191 John Feast
West Auckland Jack Elder 2,844 Ben Couch
West Coast Kerry Burke 1,480 Gordon Garwood
Western Hutt John Terris 3,548 Joy McLauchlan
Whangarei John Banks 3,687 Edna Tait
Yaldhurst Margaret Austin 2,542 James Bacon
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 8,696 Amster Reedy
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 3,529 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 8,848 Tikirau Stevens
Western Maori Koro Wētere 8,129 Eva Rickard

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ Cox was first on election night for Manawatu, but lost when special votes were included
  2. ^ Jim Anderton defected to New Labour in 1989.
  3. ^ Creech was declared elected by the High Court after an Electoral Petition


  1. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 127f.
  2. ^ McRobie 1989, pp. 123–128.
  3. ^ "General elections 1853–2005 – dates & turnout". Chief Electoral Office. Archived from the original on 17 October 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Collapse is Not End - NZ Party". The New Zealand Herald. 17 August 1987. p. 3.
  5. ^ Meurant 1989, pp. 181–198.


  • Bassett, Michael (2008). Working with David: Inside the Lange Cabinet. Auckland: Hodder Moa. ISBN 978-1-86971-094-1.
  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.
  • Meurant, Ross (1989). The Beat to the Beehive. Auckland: Harlen Books. ISBN 0-908757-05-0.
  • 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.