Sir Arnold Nordmeyer
Nordmeyer in 1954
|18th Leader of the Opposition|
1 April 1963 – 16 December 1965
|Prime Minister||Keith Holyoake|
|Preceded by||Walter Nash|
|Succeeded by||Norman Kirk|
|Born||7 February 1901|
Dunedin, New Zealand
|Died||2 February 1989 (aged 87)|
Wellington, New Zealand
|Spouse(s)||Frances Maria Kernahan (married 28 October 1931)|
|Relatives||Jim Edwards (son-in-law)|
Nordmeyer was born on 7 February 1901 in Dunedin, New Zealand. His father was a German immigrant, his mother was from Northern Ireland. He was educated at Waitaki Boys' High School, and at the University of Otago where he completed his BA. After graduating he studied theology, having always been highly religious. At university he became known for his skills in debating which were to serve him well in his later career. Although he did not join the Labour Party until 1933, he became increasingly sympathetic to the party's views. It was at this time that he met Walter Nash who may have been influential in shaping his views in health and social policy. In 1925 Nordmeyer received his ordination as a Presbyterian minister and was appointed to a position in the small town of Kurow.
While in Kurow during the Great Depression, Nordmeyer became interested in the welfare of workers involved in the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Waitaki River. He became increasingly politically active as a result witnessing both the working conditions of the labourers and the poor living conditions of the unemployed men and their families who were attracted to the area by the promise of work. At Kurow, Nordmeyer, along with local doctor and future Labour MP Gervan McMillan and school headmaster Andrew Davidson developed ideas of how to apply Christian ethics to politics to solve the miseries of unemployment, poverty and illness – ideas that were later implemented by the First Labour Government of New Zealand. It was also in Kurow that Nordmeyer met his future wife, Frances Kernahan whom he married in 1931.
Member of ParliamentEdit
|New Zealand Parliament|
Shortly before the 1935 election Nordmeyer stepped down from his church position, stating an intent to contest the Oamaru seat for the Labour Party. He was elected. The 1935 election itself was a huge victory for Labour and the party's leader, Michael Joseph Savage, became the country's first Labour Prime Minister.
In Parliament Nordmeyer proved to be a skilled debater but also had a somewhat troubled relationship with his party's leadership. Nordmeyer became part of the faction led by John A. Lee who criticised Savage's policies as too moderate. Gradually, however, Nordmeyer became disillusioned with Lee, alleging that Lee was egotistical and self-important. Nordmeyer later co-operated with more moderate politicians such as Walter Nash in drafting the party's social security policies.
After the 1938 election that Labour won resoundingly, tensions between the moderate and extreme wings of the party became worse. Nordmeyer attempted to take a position between both groups but was generally closer to Lee's camp than to the other. The year 1940 saw both the death of Savage and the expulsion from the Labour Party of Lee (a move which Nordmeyer opposed, weakly). Nordmeyer nominated Gervan McMillan, an old friend from Kurow and a supporter of Lee, as the party's new leader. McMillan, however, was defeated by Peter Fraser, Savage's chief lieutenant.
In 1941 Nordmeyer became Minister of Health. In this role, which he held until 1947, he was responsible (along with Walter Nash) for introducing state subsidies for doctor's visits. From 1947 to 1949, Nordmeyer was Minister of Industries and Commerce and came to be regarded as one of the most senior members of the government.
In the 1949 election, however, Labour was defeated by the National Party under Sidney Holland. Nordmeyer himself lost his seat of Oamaru against Thomas Hayman. In late 1950 Peter Fraser died and Nordmeyer was elected in the 1951 by-election as his replacement in the seat of Brooklyn. In 1954 he won the Island Bay seat, which he held until he retired in 1969.
In the short period between Fraser's death and Nordmeyer's return to Parliament Walter Nash had been hastily elected leader of the Labour Party. The speed of Nash's ascent is sometimes seen as evidence that his supporters considered Nordmeyer a threat. Nordmeyer, although he had worked with Nash before, opposed Nash's appointment as he objected to Nash's leadership style and considered Nash to be both autocratic and uninspiring. In 1954 Nordmeyer began a challenge for the leadership. Although Nordmeyer gained considerable backing from certain sectors of the party, Nash enjoyed strong union support and defeated the challenge in caucus on 23 June 1954.
Following the unsuccessful challenge to Nash, Nordmeyer together with Bill Anderton and Phil Connolly were called before The Labour Party National Executive and given warnings about the threat of divisiveness to the party.
Minister of FinanceEdit
When Labour won the 1957 election Nordmeyer was made Minister of Finance and was ranked third within the government. A short time after taking office Nordmeyer concluded that the country was on the brink of a balance of payments crisis and decided to take strong measures in response. His first Budget (generally known as "the Black Budget") introduced a number of unpopular changes, including significant tax increases. The particularly large tax increases for alcohol and tobacco, coupled with Nordmeyer's strong religious background, created the impression that he was attempting to impose puritan-like reforms. Labour was voted out of office in the 1960 election, something that many historians blame on Nordmeyer's "Black Budget".
Leader of the OppositionEdit
Despite attracting considerable blame for Labour's loss of support Nordmeyer was elected to lead the Labour Party when Nash retired in 1963. Future interim Prime Minister, Hugh Watt became Nordmeyer's deputy leader. The memory of the "Black Budget" still haunted Nordmeyer's profile, however, and many within the party believed that it was time for "a new generation" to take control. In 1965 a group of Labour MP's formed a group known as the 'Mafia' who were dedicated to replacing Nordmeyer with Norman Kirk. This was due to some within the Labour caucus thinking Nordmeyer "out of touch" with his Members and vice versa, some considering him an autocratic loner, despite his considerable debating abilities. Norman Kirk eventually emerged as the favourite candidate to succeed Nordmeyer and in a vote on 9 December 1965, Nordmeyer was defeated by 25 votes to 10. A later Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand quipped about Nordmeyer:
... the best Prime Minister we never had.
Retirement from politicsEdit
Nordmeyer remained in Parliament for another four years, retiring at the 1969 election. He later held a number of government appointments, including the position of director of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. In the 1975 Queen's Birthday Honours Nordmeyer was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George "for public services". On 6 February 1987 Nordmeyer was the fifth appointee to the Order of New Zealand.
Nordmeyer died in Wellington on 2 February 1989, survived by his wife Frances. In the 1989 Queen's Birthday Honours, Lady Nordmeyer was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for community service.
- Electoral history of Arnold Nordmeyer - An article about his electoral history.
- Brown, Bruce. "Nordmeyer, Arnold Henry - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Logan 2008, p. 32.
- Wilson 1985, p. 58.
- Wilson 1985, p. 84.
- Gustafson 1986, p. 320.
- Wilson 1985, p. 223.
- Logan 2008, p. 281.
- Wilson 1985, p. 88.
- Hayward 1981, p. 13.
- Hayward 1981, p. 56.
- Weir, Jim (2007). Strong language: very quotable New Zealand quotes. Auckland: New Holland Publishers. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-86966-182-3.
- "No. 46595". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 6 June 1975. p. 7405.
- "The Order of New Zealand" (12 February 1987) 20 New Zealand Gazette 705 at 709.
- "No. 51774". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 1989. p. 32.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Arnold Nordmeyer.|
- Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
- Hayward, Margaret (1981) [First ed. published 1981]. Diary of the Kirk Years (1 ed.). Wellington: A.H. and A.W. Reed Limited. ISBN 0-589-01350-5.
- Logan, Mary (2008) [First ed. published 2008]. Nordy, Arnold Nordmeyer a political biography (1 ed.). Wellington: Steele Roberts Publishers. ISBN 978-1-877448-33-1.
- Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
|New Zealand Parliament|
| Member of Parliament for Oamaru
| Member of Parliament for Brooklyn
| Member of Parliament for Island Bay
| Minister of Health
| Minister of Finance
| Leader of the Opposition