Counties-Manukau essays

Springbok tours

Bruce Ringer


In the lead up to the proposed 1973 Springbok tour of New Zealand a wave of civil unrest swept the country. About midnight on Sunday 8 April this came very close to home.

That night intruders broke into the Papakura Rugby Club clubrooms underneath the Massey Park grandstands. They smashed furniture, spread petrol around, and set the place alight. A hoax call diverted the Papakura fire engine to Manurewa. The clubrooms had been gutted by the time the fire was put out.

Some sources suggest it was news of this incident that finally persuaded Prime Minister Norman Kirk to call the tour off.

ATAC literature was later found on the scene. ATAC (Anti-Tour Action Committee) was a shadowy fringe organisation responsible for other violent acts during the campaign. Leading activist Tom Newnham denied that CARE, the main anti-apartheid organisation, had any responsibility for the Papakura arson. He pointed the finger instead at the National Socialist (Nazi) Party or Papakura rugby supporters themselves.

Despite extensive police enquiries, nobody knows to this day who torched the Papakura Rugby Club’s clubrooms, and nobody has ever been charged.

Less than three years later, on 14 February 1976, Papakura was again the scene of unrest, when protesters attempted to disrupt a softball match at Prince Edward Park between the Counties softball team and a touring South African side. A light plane repeatedly buzzed the grounds, at times flying as low as thirty feet, with the pilot dropping a number of flour and pepper bombs.

South Africa won the game (3-2) and during the day 21 arrests were made.

For more information: see Manukau’s Journey.

Publication record: first published in Connexions, no. 98, November 2008, p. 5. Revised and updated for publication on the Manukau Libraries website in September 2009.

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