New Zealand general election, 1972

New Zealand general election, 1972
New Zealand
25 November 1972 (1972-11-25)

All 87 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
44 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 1,340,168 (88.94%)
  First party Second party
Leader Norman Kirk Jack Marshall
Party Labour National
Leader since 1965 1972
Leader's seat Sydenham Karori
Last election 39 seats, 44.2% 45 seats, 45.2%
Seats won 55 32
Seat change Increase 16 Decrease 13
Popular vote 677,669 581,422
Percentage 48.4% 41.5%
Swing Increase 4.2% Decrease 3.7%

Prime Minister before election

Jack Marshall

Elected Prime Minister

Norman Kirk

The New Zealand general election of 1972 was held on 25 November to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.


The National Party had been in office since the 1960 elections, when it had defeated the ruling Labour Party, led by Walter Nash. The Second Labour Government was the shortest-lasting of all New Zealand governments to that day; in contrast, the Second National Government, led for the majority of its tenure by Keith Holyoake, would be re-elected three times. National's policies were focused around stability and a "steady as she goes" approach, but Holyoake's Government was increasingly perceived as tired and worn-out. In February 1972, Holyoake stood aside and was replaced by his deputy, Jack Marshall, who took steps to reinvigorate the party.

Meanwhile, Norman Kirk had been at the helm of Labour since 1965. In this time, he had been modernising and updating the Labour Party, but narrowly lost the 1969 election. Kirk slimmed and dressed to improve his image, and visited several overseas Labour parties to broaden his knowledge. He activated a "spokesman" or shadow cabinet system to spread the responsibility, though it was difficult to avoid one composed largely of Auckland and Christchurch members. Despite these improvements, commentators speculated whether National would pull off another cliff-hanger victory. Economic recession and voter fatigue hurt National at the polls. Labour's slogan was "It's Time – Time for a change, time for Labour", which expertly captured the national mood.

1972 electoral redistribution

Since the 1969 election, the number of electorates in the South Island was fixed at 25, with continued faster population growth in the North Island leading to an increase in the number of general electorates. Including the four Māori electorates, there had been 80 electorates since the 1902 election.[1] This increased to 84 electorates through the 1969 election.[2] The 1972 electoral redistribution saw three additional general seats created for the North Island, bringing the total number of electorates to 87.[3] Together with increased urbanisation in Christchurch and Nelson, the changes proved very disruptive to existing electorates. Only two South Island electorates were not altered by the redistribution (Clutha and Lyttelton).[4] Only eight of the North Island electorates were not altered (Franklin, Gisborne, Hobson, Island Bay, Miramar, North Shore, Tamaki, and Wairarapa).[3]

In the South Island, three electorates were abolished (Buller, Westland, and Selwyn), and three electorates were newly created (Rakaia, Tasman, and West Coast).[5] In the North Island, five electorates were abolished (Hauraki, Marsden, Otaki, Waimarino, and Waitomo), two electorates were recreated (Coromandel and Otahuhu), and six electorates were newly created (East Coast Bays, Hamilton East, Kapiti, King Country, Ruahine, and Whangarei).[6]

The election

The date for the 1972 elections was 25 November, a Saturday. 1,583,256 people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 89.1%. This turnout was slightly higher than the previous election, and considerably higher than the following one. The number of electorates being contested was 87.[3]


The 1972 election saw the Labour Party defeat the governing National Party, winning 55 seats to National's 32. Labour was therefore able to form its first government since 1960, with Norman Kirk becoming Prime Minister. The second National government thus gave way to the third Labour government. No minor parties managed to gain seats, and no independents were elected. There were 1,583,256 electors on the roll, with 1,401,152 (88.50%) voting.

Map of electorates.
Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 87 677,669 48.37 55 +16
National 87 581,422 41.50 32 -13
Social Credit 87 93,231 6.65 - ±0
Values 42 27,467 1.96 - ±0
New Democratic 86 8,783 0.63 - ±0
Liberal Reform Party 24 4,077 0.29 - ±0
Independent 43 8,503 0.61 - ±0
Total 456 1,401,152 87 +3

Votes summary

Popular Vote
Social Credit
New Democratic
Liberal Reform
Parliament seats

The table below shows the results of the 1972 general election:


 National    Labour    Social Credit    Independent  

Electorate results for the New Zealand general election, 1972
Electorate Incumbent Winner Majority Runner up
General electorates
Auckland Central Norman Douglas 2,009 W C Edwards
Avon John Mathison Mary Batchelor 6,055 G V Thomas
Awarua Hugh Templeton Aubrey Begg 723 Hugh Templeton
Bay of Plenty Percy Allen 2,189 G B Mead
Birkenhead Norman King 1,533 Don McKinnon
Christchurch Central Bruce Barclay 5,103 Mrs B J Beaven
Clutha Peter Gordon 2,131 L. J. McKay[7]
Coromandel New electorate Leo Schultz 2,181 Mrs A Murphy
Dunedin Central Brian MacDonell 3,771 F. A. O'Neill[8]
Dunedin North Ethel McMillan 4,020 J. H. Wallis[9]
East Coast Bays New electorate Frank Gill 979 B T Pauling
Eden John Rae Mike Moore 788 Mary Kidd[10]
Egmont Venn Young 2,928 R L Peck
Franklin Alfred E. Allen Bill Birch 4,188 Geoff Braybrooke
Gisborne Esme Tombleson Trevor Davey 488 Esme Tombleson[11]
Grey Lynn Eddie Isbey 5,487 J. Meder
Hamilton East New electorate Rufus Rogers 397 R M Jansen
Hamilton West Leslie Munro Dorothy Jelicich 544 G. S. D. Heather
Hastings Duncan MacIntyre Richard Mayson 1,148 Duncan MacIntyre
Hawkes Bay Richard Harrison 600 David Butcher [12]
Henderson Martyn Finlay 4,221 R. C. MacFarlane[13]
Heretaunga Ron Bailey 2,964 J W Schnellenberg
Hobson Logan Sloane 1,148 Howard Manning
Hutt Trevor Young 3,397 Michael Fowler
Invercargill John Chewings J. B. Munro 765 J G Chewings
Island Bay Gerald O'Brien 3,495 B H Farland
Kapiti New electorate Frank O'Flynn 706 Barry Brill
Karori Jack Marshall 4,408 A Floyd
King Country New electorate Jim Bolger 1,240 B C Sakey
Lyttelton Tom McGuigan 3,235 John Blumsky
Manawatu Les Gandar Allan McCready 427 Mervyn Hancock
Mangere Colin Moyle 3,939 S A Lawson
Manukau Roger Douglas 2,844 R O Price
Manurewa Phil Amos 2,397 Patrick Norman Baker[14]
Marlborough Ian Brooks 1,290 B J Dalliessi
Miramar Bill Young 434 Brian Edwards
Mt Albert Warren Freer 3,980 J H Malcolm
Napier Gordon Christie 3,725 Mrs M A Bell
Nelson Stanley Whitehead 1,933 Ian McWhannell
New Lynn Jonathan Hunt 4,312 G D McDermott
New Plymouth Ron Barclay 1,296 T W Boon
North Shore George Gair 2,821 C A Chiles
Oamaru Allan Dick Bill Laney 390 Allan Dick
Onehunga Hugh Watt 4,835 P A Blakeborough
Otago Central Murray Rose Ian Quigley 1,483 Murray Rose
Otahuhu New electorate Bob Tizard 6,403 D C Brooker
Pahiatua Keith Holyoake 4,359 L J Cairns
Pakuranga Bob Tizard Gavin Downie 1,802 J. B. Irwin
Palmerston North Joe Walding 1,766 P W Mitchell
Papanui Bert Walker 1,734 Mrs M McG Clark
Petone Fraser Colman 5,340 N G Ursin
Piako Jack Luxton 4,472 I L Howell
Porirua Gerard Wall 4,399 R A Doughty
Raglan Douglas Carter 1,350 A J Smith
Rakaia New electorate Colin McLachlan 2,133 H A Clark
Rangiora Herbert Pickering Kerry Burke 866 A E Hartt
Rangitikei Norman Shelton Roy Jack 3,037 N R Pearce [nb 1]
Remuera Allan Highet 6,118 L R Stanton
Riccarton Eric Holland 2,164 D I Jackson
Rodney Peter Wilkinson 4,507 P W Trim
Roskill Arthur Faulkner 4,439 John Maurice Priestley[15]
Rotorua Harry Lapwood 786 N F Pachoud
Ruahine New electorate Les Gandar 552 T S Mihaere
St Albans Roger Drayton 3,066 R T Doak
St Kilda William Fraser 5,615 C La S Kirby
South Canterbury Rob Talbot 2,035 N. D. Braithwaite
Stratford David Thomson 3,068 D G Turney
Sydenham Norman Kirk 6,986 J F Burn
Tamaki Robert Muldoon 4,590 A H Hedger
Tasman New electorate Bill Rowling 1,834 Gerald Hunt
Taupo Rona Stevenson Jack Ridley 783 J. F. Higgins
Tauranga George Walsh Keith Allen 2,215 H. J. Uttinger[16]
Timaru Basil Arthur 3,954 D A J Walker
Waikato Lance Adams-Schneider 4,208 R D Reese
Wairarapa Jack Williams 1,086 Ben Couch
Waitemata Frank Gill Michael Bassett 2,544 Ray La Varis
Wallace Brian Talboys 2,904 I D Lamont
Wanganui William Tolhurst Russell Marshall 2,879 William Tolhurst
Wellington Central Dan Riddiford Ken Comber 27 D. A. Shand [nb 2]
West Coast New electorate Paddy Blanchfield 4,242 Barry Dallas
Western Hutt Henry May 2,392 Julian Watts [nb 3][17]
Whangarei New electorate Murray Smith 1,180 L. G. Carr
Wigram Mick Connelly 5,255 D. G. Cox
Māori electorates
Eastern Maori Paraone Reweti 6,190 K. M. Dewes
Northern Maori Matiu Rata 5,260 Graham Latimer
Southern Maori Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan 8,251 K. Parahi
Western Maori Koro Wētere 8,686 R. Te A. H. Rawiri

Table footnotes:

  1. Bruce Beetham came third for Social Credit in Rangitikei
  2. Shand was first on election night, but lost when special votes were included
  3. Julian Watts was a son of Jack Watts



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