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Venn Spearman Young QSO (16 February 1929 – 14 January 1993) was a New Zealand politician. He was a member of the National Party, and served as a Cabinet Minister in the government of Robert Muldoon. He is known for his failed attempt to legalise "homosexual acts" in 1975.

Early lifeEdit

Young was born in Stratford, Taranaki. He attended primary school in Stratford, but received his high school education in Nelson, at Nelson College from 1942 to 1944.[1] He then returned to Taranaki, becoming a dairy farmer. He gained some distinction as a rugby player, representing Taranaki. He was also active in the Anglican Church.[2]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1966–1969 35th Egmont National
1969–1972 36th Egmont National
1972–1975 37th Egmont National
1975–1978 38th Egmont National
1978–1981 39th Waitotara National
1981–1984 40th Waitotara National
1984–1987 41st Waitotara National
1987–1990 42nd Waitotara National

In the 1966 election, Young stood as the National Party's candidate for the Egmont electorate, and was successful. He was to hold Egmont in the next three elections, gaining a straight majority each time. At the 1978 election, the Egmont electorate was abolished, and Young successfully contested the new Waitotara electorate. He remained the MP for Waitotara until his departure from politics.[3]

Private members' BillEdit

In mid 1974, Young attracted considerable controversy by putting forward a private members' bill to legalise private "homosexual acts" between consenting adults. The proposed age of consent was twenty-one, and although this was later reduced to twenty by a select committee, a number of homosexual lobbyists criticised it on this count. By far the most vocal criticism, however, came from conservatives, including many of his National Party colleagues. On 4 July 1975, the bill was defeated, with 34 votes against and 29 votes in favour. There were 24 abstentions.[4]

Cabinet ministerEdit

Despite having alienated many of his party colleagues, Young entered Cabinet when National won the 1975 election. Robert Muldoon, the new Prime Minister, appointed Young to the Lands, Forests, and Environment portfolios, which he held for two parliamentary terms from December 1975 to 1981. In 1981, Young was moved to the Social Welfare portfolio, which he retained until National's defeat in the 1984 election.[5]

in the 1990 New Year Honours, Young was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public service.[6]


Young retired from parliament at the 1990 election, although not before another homosexual law reform bill (promoted by Labour's Fran Wilde), the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, was successfully passed.

Young died in January 1993 after suffering a heart attack, and was buried in Hawera Cemetery.[7] He was survived by his wife and nine children.

In July 2008 it was announced that his son, Jonathan Young would be seeking the National Party's nomination for the New Plymouth electorate. At the general election held on 8 November, Jonathan Young narrowly defeated incumbent Harry Duynhoven by 105 votes.


  1. ^ Nelson College Old Boys' Register, 1856–2006, 6th edition
  2. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 351.
  3. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 247.
  4. ^ Guy, Laurie (2002). Worlds in collision: the gay debate in New Zealand, 1960–1986. Wellington: Victoria University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-86473-438-7.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 95.
  6. ^ "No. 51982". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1989. p. 31.
  7. ^ "Venn Spearman Young". South Taranaki District Council. Retrieved 10 May 2014.


  • Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. ISBN 0-474-00177-6.
  • 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
Preceded by
William Sheat
Member of Parliament for Egmont
Constituency abolished
Constituency recreated after abolition in 1893
Title last held by
George Hutchison
Member of Parliament for Waitotara
Succeeded by
Peter Gresham
Political offices
Preceded by
Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Ian Shearer