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Bill Fraser (New Zealand politician)

William Alex Fraser QSO (28 July 1924 – 13 January 2001) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party.

Bill Fraser

Bill Fraser, 1953.jpg
Fraser in 1953
26th Minister of Defence
In office
10 September 1974 – 12 December 1975
Prime MinisterBill Rowling
Preceded byArthur Faulkner
Succeeded byAllan McCready
9th Minister of Housing
In office
8 December 1972 – 10 September 1974
Prime MinisterNorman Kirk
Preceded byEric Holland
Succeeded byRoger Douglas
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for St Kilda
In office
30 November 1957 – 28 November 1981
Preceded byJim Barnes
Succeeded byMichael Cullen
Personal details
Born(1924-07-28)28 July 1924
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died13 January 2001(2001-01-13) (aged 76)
Dunedin, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Dorothy Fraser

Early life and careerEdit

Fraser was born in Dunedin on 28 July 1924.[1] He attended school at Forbury and King Edward Technical College. His father was a film projectionist and whilst not politically active, was a Labour supporter. In 1938 he became an apprentice carpenter and later worked as a builder.[2]

He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War II. He enlisted in No. 5 Squadron of the Air Training Corps in 1941 and trained at Ohakea as an air gunner. In 1943 he gained his flying badge was posted to the Solomon Islands where he saw action conducting bombings, strafing runs and photographic reconnaissance. He ended the war with the rank of Warrant Officer and was demobilized in May 1946.[2]

While on leave between operational tours, he met Dorothy Tucker at a services club in Gisborne. They married in 1947 and had two children together. He then entered work again as a builder and was a prominent member of the Returned Services' Association.[3]

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1957–1960 32nd St Kilda Labour
1960–1963 33rd St Kilda Labour
1963–1966 34th St Kilda Labour
1966–1969 35th St Kilda Labour
1969–1972 36th St Kilda Labour
1972–1975 37th St Kilda Labour
1975–1978 38th St Kilda Labour
1978–1981 39th St Kilda Labour

Local politicsEdit

With Dorothy's encouragement he joined the Dunedin South branch of the Labour Party, where he became a delegate to the Otago Labour Representation Committee and became president of the St Kilda Junior Branch. At the 1947 local body elections he stood as a candidate for the St Kilda Borough Council, but was unsuccessful.[2]

In 1953 Fraser was elected a member of the Dunedin City Council serving one three year term before being defeated in 1956.[4]

Member of ParliamentEdit

He represented the Dunedin electorate of St Kilda from 1957 to 1981, when he retired. He was Dunedin's longest-serving MP.[3] He defeated the popular National MP James Barnes and defeated Barnes again in 1960. He increased his majority steadily over his career and turned St Kilda from a marginal seat to a safe Labour seat.[2]

Fraser was a backbencher during the government of Walter Nash before spending 12 years in opposition. During these years he was a trustee of the Otago Savings Bank from 1959 to 1973 and president of the Associated Trustee Banks from 1973 to 1976.[2]

Cabinet ministerEdit

He was a Cabinet Minister, serving as Minister of Housing from 1972 to 1974 before being appointed Minister of Defence from 1974 to 1975 in the Third Labour Government.[5]

As Minister of Housing he oversaw a huge increase in building of state houses to fulfill Labour's election promise to increase rental supply and restore the "Kiwi dream" of home ownership. He overcame formidable hurdles such as lack of funding, a depleted construction industry and uncooperative banking industry. He recounted at the time that one of the biggest hurdles in house construction was the manufacturing of toilet pans and that to keep construction going he had to authorize shipments from Australia and when they arrived half were broken. He also initiated the New Zealand Housing Corporation.[2]

When Bill Rowling succeeded Norman Kirk as Prime Minister he appointed Fraser as Minister of Defence. Rowling gave the Housing portfolio to Roger Douglas but hastened to say the change was not a demotion and that it was due to a lack of experienced ministers with military experience (Fraser's cabinet ranking remained unchanged).[2]

Later life and deathEdit

In 1979, after Labour's failure to regain government in 1978, Fraser made the decision to retire and return to the building trade. Upon leaving parliament he said "I still have a strong right arm and can wield a hammer."[2]

In the 1992 Queen's Birthday Honours Fraser was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services.[6]

He died aged 76 in Dunedin in 2001, survived by his wife, son and daughter.[2] His ashes were buried in Andersons Bay Cemetery.[7][8]

As a former carpenter Fraser occupied time in retirement repairing and renovating Labour's Dunedin South branch office. In 1980 it was renamed the Bill Fraser Lounge in Fraser's honour. In 2015 the office was damaged in a flood and was refurbished in 2018.[9]


  1. ^ Europa Publications Limited (1974). The international who's who. Europa Publications. ISBN 9780900362729. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Parry, Gordon (20 January 2001). "Well-loved Labour man got things done". Otago Daily Times. p. 23.
  3. ^ a b "MP touched the lives of many". The Press. 1 February 2001. p. 5.
  4. ^ "Past Dunedin City Councils". Dunedin City Council. Archived from the original on 21 May 2003. Retrieved 20 May 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 92-3.
  6. ^ "No. 52953". The London Gazette (Supplement). June 1992. p. 30.
  7. ^ "Cemeteries search: cremation". Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Cemeteries search: ashes burial". Dunedin City Council. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  9. ^ "PM opens Labour's refurbished rooms". Otago Daily Times. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Faulkner
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Allan McCready
Preceded by
Eric Holland
Minister of Housing
Succeeded by
Roger Douglas
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
James Barnes
Member of Parliament for St Kilda
Succeeded by
Michael Cullen