NZ Politics: 1985-1995

Political Reform


  • New Zealand introduces anti-nuclear policy.
  • Prime Minister David Lange wins the 1985 Oxford Union debate arguing that "nuclear weapons are morally indefensible". A transcript and recording of his speech is available from Public Address.
  • Rainbow Warrior sunk in Auckland harbour.
  • Royal Commission on the Electoral System established.


  • Jim Bolger becomes leader of the National Party.
  • New Zealand Party merges with National.
  • Royal Commission into the Electoral System recommends referendum on change from First Past the Post (FFP) to Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), but the report is shelved for several years.


  • Labour re-elected as government.
  • Anti-nuclear legislation passed.
  • Māori Language Act passed making Māori an official language of New Zealand.


  • Government announces return of Bastion Point to Māori owners.


  • Jim Anderton founds New Labour Party.
  • David Lange resigns as Prime Minister and is replaced by Geoffrey Palmer.
  • Christian Heritage Party (later Christian Heritage New Zealand) launched.


  • Dame Catherine Tizard becomes New Zealand’s first woman Governor General.
  • Values Party merges with other 'Green' groups to form the Green Party of Aotearoa.
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights Act passed, protecting the democratic, civil and legal rights of the individual.
  • Mike Moore replaces Geoffrey Palmer as Prime Minister.
  • National Party wins election and Jim Bolger becomes Prime Minister.
  • Jim Anderton wins Sydenham seat for New Labour.


  • Employment Contracts Bill passed.
  • Alliance Party formed, consisting of New Labour, Mana Motuhake, Democratic (formerly Social Credit) and the Green Party.


  • Indicative referendum rejects FFP (First Past the Post) system for MMP (Mixed Member Proportional), but second referendum required for legislation to proceed.


  • Winston Peters forms New Zealand First Party.
  • Citizens Initiated Referenda Act passed, allowing a referendum to be held on a subject if sufficient support is gained in a petition.
  • National Party wins election, with Alliance and New Zealand First winning two seats each.
  • Helen Clark becomes the first woman leader of a major political party when she wins the leadership of the Labour Party.
  • Referendum results support introduction of MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) system.
  • Taito Phillip Field becomes the first New Zealand member of parliament of Pacific Island descent.
  • Chris Carter elected as the first openly gay member of parliament.
  • Human Rights Act bans discrimination on 13 different grounds, including race, sex and age, and establishes the office of the Race Relations Conciliator.


  • Roger Douglas (ex Labour) and Derek Quigley (ex National) found The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.


  • Supporters of The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers form the ACT New Zealand political party with Richard Prebble as leader.
  • Christian Heritage and United New Zealand parties founded.
  • 60 general electorates and 5 Māori electorates set for first MMP election.
  • Georgina Beyer (formerly George Bertrand) becomes world’s first transsexual mayor when elected mayor of Carterton.


European Beginnings: 1642 - 1852 First Parliaments: 1853 - 1871 Universal Suffrage: 1873 - 1893 Development of Party Politics: 1894 - 1916 Between the Wars: 1918 - 1939 Two-party Politics: 1945 - 1966 Growth of Multi-party Politics: 1967 - 1984 Political Reform: 1985 - 1995 Government under MMP: 1996 - 2004
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