Michael Moohan (27 April 1899 – 7 February 1967) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party. Seldom known to anyone by anything other than "Mick", he was a major organizational figure in the Labour Party's early history and went on to become a significant politician in his own right as an MP and cabinet minister.

Mick Moohan
Michael Moohan MP.jpg
36th Postmaster-General
In office
8 December 1957 – 31 August 1960
Prime MinisterWalter Nash
Preceded byTom Shand
Succeeded byThomas Hayman
17th Minister of Railways
In office
8 December 1957 – 31 August 1960
Prime MinisterWalter Nash
Preceded byJohn McAlpine
Succeeded byJohn McAlpine
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Petone
In office
27 November 1946 – 7 February 1967
Succeeded byFraser Colman
18th President of the Labour Party
In office
Vice PresidentMartyn Finlay
Preceded byArnold Nordmeyer
Succeeded byMartyn Finlay
Personal details
Michael Moohan

(1899-04-27)27 April 1899[1]
Garrison, County Fermanagh, Ireland
Died7 February 1967(1967-02-07) (aged 67)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Cecilia Hayman


Early lifeEdit

Moohan was born in Garrison, County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1899, he was brought up in Manchester, England. He was apprenticed to the engineering trade.[2] He served with the 2nd Division, Royal Engineers during World War I in France and then in the Army of Occupation, the Army of the Rhine. Returned to England where the land 'fit for heroes' didn't emerge and emigrated to New Zealand in 1922, where he joined the Labour Party.[3] In 1923 he married Cecilia Hayman; they had one son and four daughters.

After arriving in New Zealand Moohan found employment with the technical staff of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department and was stationed in Raetihi. There he became active in support of Labour in the Waimarino County. He was elected a member of the Ohakune Borough Council from 1932 to 1935, also serving as deputy mayor.[2] After, leaving Waimarino for Auckland, he was elected vice-president and later as secretary of the Auckland Labour Representation Committee. He joined Labour's national office as an assistant secretary in 1937, and in 1940 was elected as Labour's national secretary-treasurer.[4]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1946–1949 28th Petone Labour
1949–1951 29th Petone Labour
1951–1954 30th Petone Labour
1954–1957 31st Petone Labour
1957–1960 32nd Petone Labour
1960–1963 33rd Petone Labour
1963–1966 34th Petone Labour
1966–1967 35th Petone Labour

Moohan was elected the Member of Parliament for the new electorate of Petone in 1946 and served until 1967, when he died.[5] He fought off deputy leader Walter Nash for the Labour nomination who indicated his preference for contesting the Petone seat after an electoral redistribution occurred which made his seat of Hutt more marginal.[6]

Moohan was described by contemporaries as a colourful character and effective debater. Attributed to his Irish upbringing he was described as a versatile speaker who could infuse almost any speech with an entertaining and effective mixture of both 'banter and bite'.[2] Closer colleagues however also noted his underhanded and expedient nature. Nash said of him "He [Moohan] was a sly fellow, oozing bonhomie, with an instinct for low politics."[6]

From 1947 to 1949 he was Under-Secretary to the Prime Minister.[7] He was appointed by Peter Fraser to oversee the government's post-war state housing scheme.[2] In 1951 he was nominated to stand for the deputy leadership of the party, but he declined the nomination.[8] Moohan was a critic of Nash's leadership and helped organise a leadership challenge against him in 1954, though in the event switched sides and voted for Nash due to the increasing unpopularity of a leadership change among party members.[9]

During the intervening time he also served as the Labour Party's President between 1955 and 1960 and served as Labour's campaign manager in the successful 1957 election.[10]

He was both Minister of Railways and Postmaster-General and Minister of Telegraphs in the Second Labour Government from 1957 to 1960.[11] Despite his cabinet ranking, Moohan was one of a group of three Labour MPs (the others being Bill Fox and Frank Kitts) who were deeply critical of the decisions made in the "Black Budget".[12] In 1959 he travelled to Warsaw as a delegate to the International Parliamentary Union and then went to London to study developments in telephone cable and postal procedures.[2]

After Arnold Nordmeyer replaced Nash as leader, Moohan began agitating against the party leadership once again. Alongside Bill Fox and Warren Freer, he was one of the few senior Labour MPs who backed Norman Kirk's successful challenge to Nordmeyer in 1965. Kirk promoted him to the frontbench and he became a close confidant of Kirk's until his death.[13]


Moohan had been indifferent health and was absent from Parliament for seven weeks in July and August 1966 suffering from a throat complaint. He died on 7 February 1967, aged 68, survived by his wife and five children. Coincidentally he died just hours apart from another previous Labour Party president James Roberts.[2] He was buried at the Taita Lawn Cemetery in Lower Hutt.[14]

Moohan RocketEdit

On 16 February 1960 a special ministerial train dubbed the Moohan Rocket made a trip from Wellington to Auckland on the North Island Main Trunk, taking 11 hours and 45 minutes, or 2½ hours less than the steam-hauled Night Limited. As the train of a brake van, three first-class cars and a Ministerial car at the rear only weighed 147 tons, and was hauled by two DG class locomotives, the time was somewhat disappointing. The return trip two days later behind a single DA locomotive was slightly quicker at 11 hours and 34 minutes, though the superior DA could not then run through the tunnels north of Wellington and the two DGs took over at Palmerston North. The train reflected Moohan's idea of a fast and comfortable intercity service later seen in the Silver Star and Silver Fern.


  1. ^ "New Zealand, cemetery records, 1800–2007". Ancestry.com Operations. 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Labour's 'Mick' Moohan And 'Big Jim' Roberts Dead". The Evening Post. 7 February 1967. p. 19.
  3. ^ Paul 1946, pp. 117.
  4. ^ Paul 1946, pp. 118.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 221.
  6. ^ a b Sinclair 1976, p. 266.
  7. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 84.
  8. ^ "Deputy-Leadership of Party Contested By Ex-Ministers". The Dominion. 8 January 1951. p. 8.
  9. ^ Logan 2008, p. 280-1.
  10. ^ Brown 1962, pp. 224.
  11. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 88.
  12. ^ Freer 2004, p. 103.
  13. ^ Grant 2014, p. 79-80.
  14. ^ "Record Details: Michael MOOHAN". Hutt City Council. Retrieved 24 February 2019.


  • Brown, Bruce (1962). The Rise of New Zealand Labour: A history of the New Zealand Labour Party. Wellington: Price Milburn.
  • Freer, Warren (2004). A Lifetime in Politics: the memoirs of Warren Freer. Wellington: Victoria University Press. ISBN 0-86473-478-6.
  • Grant, David (2014). The Mighty Totara: The life and times of Norman Kirk. Auckland: Random House. ISBN 9781775535799.
  • Logan, Mary (2008). Nordy, Arnold Nordmeyer a political biography. Wellington: Steele Roberts Publishers. ISBN 978-1-877448-33-1.
  • Paul, J.T. (1946). Humanism in Politics: New Zealand Labour Party in Retrospect. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Worker Printing and Publishing.
  • Sinclair, Keith (1976). Walter Nash. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-647949-5.
  • Rail: The Great New Zealand Adventure by Roy Sinclair (1987, Grantham House Wellington) ISBN 1-86934-013-2 (Moohan Rocket, page 82)
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Who's Who in New Zealand (1961, 7th edition)
Political offices
Preceded by
John McAlpine
Minister of Railways
Succeeded by
John McAlpine
Preceded by
Tom Shand
Succeeded by
Thomas Hayman
New Zealand Parliament
New constituency Member of Parliament for Petone
Succeeded by
Fraser Colman
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arnold Nordmeyer
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Martyn Finlay
Preceded by
David Wilson
Secretary of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Allan McDonald