New Zealand general election, 1987

New Zealand general election, 1987
New Zealand
15 August 1987 (1987-08-15)

All 97 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
49 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader David Lange Jim Bolger
Party Labour National
Leader since 3 February 1983 26 March 1986
Leader's seat Mangere King Country
Last election 56 seats, 42.98% 37 seats, 35.89%
Seats before 55 38
Seats won 57 40
Seat change Increase 2 Increase 2
Popular vote 878,448 806,305
Percentage 47.96% 44.02%
Swing Increase 4.98% Increase 8.13%

Prime Minister before election

David Lange

Subsequent Prime Minister

David Lange

The 1987 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the 42nd sitting of the New Zealand Parliament. The governing New Zealand Labour Party, led by Prime Minister David Lange, was re-elected for a second term, although the Opposition National Party made gains. The election also saw the elimination of the Democratic Party (formerly the Social Credit Party) from Parliament, leaving Labour and National as the only parties represented.


Before the election, the Labour Party (in government) held 56 seats, giving it an absolute majority in Parliament. The National Party (in opposition) held 37 seats. The Democrats, a small party devoted to the principles of Social Credit, held two seats.

Of particular importance in the election were the economic reforms being undertaken by Roger Douglas, the Minister of Finance. These reforms, sometimes known as "Rogernomics", involved monetarist approaches to controlling inflation, corporatisation of government departments, and the removal of tariffs and subsidies. All these things were strongly opposed by many traditional Labour supporters, who saw them as a betrayal of the party's left-wing principles. Many commentators believed that public anger over Rogernomics could cost the government the election.

Another matter of importance, and perhaps one which enabled Labour to survive public dissatisfaction, was the nuclear issue. In the previous parliamentary term, New Zealand had adopted legislation which prevented nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered ships entering New Zealand, a move which provoked an angry reaction from New Zealand's allies in the ANZUS treaty. The National Party intended to revoke the ban, but the New Zealand public were supportive of it. Labour's support for the ban is often considered to be an important factor in the party's re-election.

National was also bitterly divided, with some supporting the Rogernomics reforms, but MPs such as former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon bitterly opposed. Muldoon had undermined his successor as party leader, Jim McLay, who was replaced by his deputy Jim Bolger in 1986. Bolger was more centrist, but National still struggled to be seen as an alternative government.

Electoral changes

The 1987 electoral redistribution took the continued population growth in the North Island into account, and two additional general electorates were created, bringing the total number of electorates to 97. In the South Island, the shift of population to Christchurch had continued.[1] Overall, three electorates were newly created (Clevedon, Maramarua, and Titirangi), three electorates were recreated (Albany, Coromandel, and Hobson), and four electorates were abolished (Franklin, Hauraki, Rodney, and Waitakere). All of those electorates were in the North Island. Changes in the South Island were restricted to boundary changes.[2]

The election

The election was held on 15 August, and 2,114,656 people were registered to vote.[3] Turnout was 89.1%, somewhat lower than the 1984 election.

Summary of results

The election saw the Labour Party win 57 seats, enough for it to retain its outright majority. Labour held two more seats than after the previous election. The National Party won 40 seats, an increase of three. It was possible for both parties to increase their number of seats partly due to the disappearance of the Democrats and partly due to the increase in the total number of seats.

Although Labour emerged from the election with a 17-seat lead over National, the difference between each party's vote count was considerably smaller. Labour's share of the vote was 48.0% (up from 43.0% in 1984), while National's was 44.0% (up from 35.5%). While Labour did retain its lead, the gap between Labour and National closed by a larger extent than the seat count would indicate.

The Democrats, despite winning 5.7% of the total vote, did not win any electorates, including the two that they had held before the election. The Democrats have not regained parliamentary representation under their own name since losing it in these elections, although they did manage to enter parliament as part of the larger Alliance.

The New Zealand Party, which had gained 12.2% of the vote in the previous election, performed poorly, gaining less than 0.1% support.

Electoral petition

The election night result for Wairarapa was for National by 65 votes. The final official count however gave the seat to the incumbent, Reg Boorman of the Labour Party, by a margin of seven votes, although a Judicial Recount reduced this to only one vote. But on 12 July 1988, following a petition to the Electoral Court, Wyatt Creech of the National Party was declared elected by a margin of 34 votes (9,994 to 9,960). The petition was supported initially by MPs Roger McClay and Winston Peters (who had been involved in challenges in Taupo and Hunua) but not by the party hierarchy, according to Creech’s account in a book by Ross Meurant).[4]

Detailed results

Party totals

Election results
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 97 878,448 47.96 57 +1
National 97 806,305 44.02 40 +3
Democrats 97 105,091 5.74 - -2
Independents 5 11,873 0.64 - -
Others 128 30,060 1.64 - -
Total 424 1,831,777 97 +2

Votes summary

Popular Vote
Parliament seats

There were 97 seats being contested, two more than were in the previous parliament. All seats were won by one of the two major parties.

The Labour Party, which was in government, won 57 seats, giving it a majority. Most of the seats won by Labour were in urban areas, following the party's typical pattern. Labour was particularly strong in the Wellington region, where it won all ten urban seats. It was also strong in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, the other three urban centres, as well as in smaller cities such as Hamilton, New Plymouth, Nelson, Napier, Hastings and Palmerston North. Labour also retained its traditional dominance in the Maori seats, winning all four by large margins.

The National Party, also following its traditional patters, was strongest in rural areas, winning the vast majority of seats in these regions. The party's primary wins in urban areas were in Auckland, with the party taking six seats. The party also won a number of seats in smaller cities, such as Rotorua, Tauranga, Invercargill and Whangarei. The party performed poorly in the Maori electorates, coming third in all four.

While no minor parties managed to win an electorate, several did manage to gain second place, outperforming one of the major parties but being defeated by the other. The Democrats (formerly Social Credit) was the strongest of the minor parties, coming second in five electorates. Two electorates, East Coast Bays and Pakuranga, were held by the Democrats prior to the election, but were narrowly lost to National candidates. In the other electorates (Coromandel, Rangitikei and Wanganui) the Democrats were the challengers. In the four Maori electorates, the Mana Motuhake party gained second place. Its best result, 31.6%, was obtained in Northern Maori. The New Zealand Party also performed strongly in some electorates, although not as strongly as in the previous election.

Independent candidates did not perform well in the 1987 election, with none of them winning a seat or even placing second.

The tables below shows the results of the 1987 general election:


 Labour    National    Democrats    Mana Motuhake    Independent  

Electorate results for the New Zealand general election, 1987
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Albany New electorate Don McKinnon 1,658 C J Carter
Ashburton Rob Talbot Jenny Shipley 4,935 I A Maxwell
Auckland Central Richard Prebble 7,355 S J Mayer
Avon Mary Batchelor Larry Sutherland 6,322 Ms W Rush
Awarua Rex Austin Jeff Grant 2,480 Ms H M Simpson
Bay of Islands Neill Austin John Carter 2,123 C S Robinson
Birkenhead Jim McLay Jenny Kirk 2,220 Barry Gustafson
Christchurch Central Geoffrey Palmer 6,805 G L B Burnett
Christchurch North Mike Moore 4,698 B A McNeill
Clevedon New electorate Warren Kyd 827 Ms L F Goffin
Clutha Robin Gray 5,541 Holly Russell
Coromandel New electorate Graeme Lee 3,765 Alasdair Thompson
Dunedin North Stan Rodger 6,534 Sean Davison
Dunedin West Clive Matthewson 4,547 I W McMeeking
East Cape Anne Fraser 246 H T Gardiner
East Coast Bays Gary Knapp Murray McCully 311 Gary Knapp
Eastern Hutt Trevor Young 4,740 P W Pattison
Eden Richard Northey 3,404 E TeR Tauroa
Fendalton Philip Burdon 311 N J Cherry
Gisborne Allan Wallbank 2,759 Miss G M Tattersfield
Glenfield Judy Keall 1,900 D L Schnaur
Hamilton East Bill Dillon 1,671 Ms S M Shearer
Hamilton West Trevor Mallard 1,235 D G S Simes
Hastings David Butcher 2,307 J M Whittaker
Hawkes Bay Bill Sutton 859 H B Laws
Heretaunga Bill Jeffries 2,554 J E A Allen
Hobson New electorate Ross Meurant 4,998 I J Melville
Horowhenua Annette King 1,550 G W F Thompson
Invercargill Norman Jones Rob Munro 552 D E H Soper
Island Bay Frank O'Flynn 7,313 Ms S S Clark
Kaimai Bruce Townshend Robert Anderson 2,307 H J Uttinger
Kaipara Lockwood Smith 5,797 Ms I A Hutchings
Kapiti Margaret Shields 2,760 Roger Sowry
King Country Jim Bolger 5,954 L L Menefy
Lyttelton Ann Hercus Peter Simpson 3,733 P S Hall
Manawatu David Robinson Hamish MacIntyre 131 David Robinson
Mangere David Lange 6,019 R C Jeffery
Manurewa Roger Douglas 3,052 G Cunningham
Maramarua New electorate Bill Birch 5,729 B R Dent
Marlborough Doug Kidd 2,402 Ms P B Hutchison
Matamata Jack Luxton John Luxton 6,926 D W McGregor
Miramar Peter Neilsen 4,061 I G MacFarlane
Mount Albert Helen Clark 5,337 R B Wheeler
Napier Geoff Braybrooke 5,425 A C Church
Nelson Philip Woollaston 5,467 Mel Courtney
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 4,369 R G Berry
New Plymouth Tony Friedlander Harry Duynhoven 337 Tony Friedlander
North Shore George Gair 920 G R Ransom
Ohariu Peter Dunne 4,492 D W Lloyd
Onehunga Fred Gerbic 3,329 A A Stanley
Otago Warren Cooper 1,961 Calvin Fisher
Otara Colin Moyle 2,409 Trevor Rogers
Pahiatua John Falloon 2,083 Ms M E Martindale
Pakuranga Neil Morrison Maurice Williamson 2,018 Neil Morrison
Palmerston North Trevor de Cleene 3,237 P J Curry
Panmure Bob Tizard 4,247 T J C Elliott
Papakura Merv Wellington 2,894 G I Summers
Papatoetoe Eddie Isbey Ross Robertson 2,689 H R Martin
Pencarrow Fraser Colman Sonja Davies 1,851 A W Harvey
Porirua Gerard Wall Graham Kelly 3,531 A L Gadsby
Raglan Simon Upton 3,271 Ms O I Scarletti-Longley
Rangiora Jim Gerard 2,132 I C Constable
Rangitikei Denis Marshall 4,039 Bruce Beetham
Remuera Doug Graham 406 Judith Tizard
Roskill Phil Goff 2,437 R A Foulkes
Rotorua Paul East 2,425 Ms R Mitchie
St Albans David Caygill 4,521 A P Cowie
St Kilda Michael Cullen 5,692 Lyndon Weggery
Selwyn Ruth Richardson 2,962 W E Woods
Sydenham Jim Anderton[nb 1] 6,436 Ms J M Harrington
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 1,947 C Harding
Taranaki Roger Maxwell 6,313 P E E Jackson
Tarawera Ian McLean 3,577 M R Moore
Tasman Ken Shirley 1,012 G H Hunt
Tauranga Winston Peters 2,451 Ms J M Seddon
Te Atatu Michael Bassett 2,249 B K Neeson
Timaru Maurice McTigue 857 G J Clarke
Titirangi New electorate Ralph Maxwell 3,954 J C McIntosh
Tongariro Noel Scott 2,370 Ian Peters
Waikaremoana Roger McClay 3,810 T K Stewart
Waikato Rob Storey 4,155 B C Raitt
Waipa Katherine O'Regan 6,303 Ms L F Holmes
Wairarapa Reg Boorman Wyatt Creech[nb 2] 34 Reg Boorman
Waitaki Jim Sutton 89 D W Taylor
Waitotara Venn Young 5,949 Ms R F Stewart
Wallace Derek Angus 7,594 B O Julian
Wanganui Russell Marshall 248 Terry Heffernan
West Auckland Jack Elder 2,844 Ben Couch
Wellington Central Fran Wilde 5,191 J E Feast
West Coast Kerry Burke 1,480 G D Garwood
Western Hutt John Terris 3,548 Joy McLauchlan
Whangarei John Banks 3,687 Ms E E Tait
Yaldhurst Margaret Austin 2,542 C J Bacon
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Peter Tapsell 8,696 N A Reedy
Northern Maori Bruce Gregory 3,529 Matiu Rata
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 8,848 Tikirau Stevens
Western Maori Koro Wētere 8,129 Eva Rickard

Table footnotes:

  1. Jim Anderton defected to New Labour in 1989.
  2. Creech was declared elected by the High Court after an Electoral Petition


  1. McRobie 1989, pp. 127f.
  2. McRobie 1989, pp. 123–128.
  3. "General elections 1853–2005 – dates & turnout". Chief Electoral Office. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  4. Meurant 1989, pp. 181–198.


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