Counties-Manukau essays

Political party leaders from South Auckland


Bruce Ringer

Over the years South Auckland has, it seems, contributed a disproportionate number of party political leaders to the country at large.

It’s well known that William Ferguson Massey, a Reform Prime Minister from 1912 to 1925, and David Lange, a Labour Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989, were local boys. They even lived, at different times, on the same Mangere street.

Less well-known, perhaps, is that Jim Anderton and Roger Douglas both began their elective political careers as Manukau City Councillors in 1965. Roger Douglas, who first entered Parliament in 1969, and was a minister in the Lange government, retired in 1990, but later founded what became the Act Party. In a remarkable political comeback, he re-entered Parliament as a list MP in 2008.

The first Manukau City Council, 1965-1968.

The first Manukau City Council, 1965-1968. Jim Anderton second from left, Roger Douglas fourth from left, third row down. (Manukau City Council archives. Manukau Research Library, MCC: I, 3 no. 3)

Jim Anderton, who served for some years as president of the Labour Party, was first elected to Parliament in 1984. He later formed successively the New Labour, Alliance and Progressive parties. A parliamentary colleague, Manurewa’s Matiu Rata, MP for Northern Maori, 1963-1980, founded the Mana Motuhake party, a sometime Alliance partner.

On the other side of the house, Winston Peters, founder of the New Zealand First Party, entered Parliament in 1978 as National MP for Hunua. In the 2006 Parliament, thus, not just one but three Parliamentary leaders had more-or-less local connections: Jim Anderton, Winston Peters, and Jeanette Fitzsimons, who had spent some of her childhood years in Waiuku.

South Auckland has also had its mavericks over the years. In 1935 a one-armed lawyer named Arthur Sexton was elected MP for Franklin, serving a single term as one of only two-ever Country Party MPs. In 1984 Neil Morrison won the Pakuranga seat for Social Credit, becoming one of his party’s two MPs, and later leader of the New Zealand Democratic Party. In 1995 Howick MP Trevor Rogers resigned from National to join the recently founded ROC (Right of Centre) Party. The same year John Robertson, then MP for Papakura, helped form United New Zealand.

And of course there have been the minnows: Bishop Brian Tamaki’s Destiny New Zealand had strong local roots. So did Taito Philip Field’s avowedly family values party, New Zealand Pacific, which was launched in Mangere in August 2008.

For more information: see Manukau’s Journey.

Publication record: first published in Connexions, no. 96, June 2008, p. 6. Revised and updated for publication on the Manukau Libraries website in September 2009.

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