Names and dates, people and places, they vanish in the slipstream of daily life. But in this section and with the help of nzhistory.net.nz we'll revive - if only for a moment - the memories of some events, people and their achievements.
Some of these date back much further than the time span of baby boomers but are included not only because they're interesting milestones, but because they once made up so much of our heritage.
1st April 1965
TEAL becomes Air New Zealand
On 1 April 1965 Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), New Zealand’s international air operator, was renamed Air New Zealand Limited. TEAL had been established in 1939, when the New Zealand, United Kingdom and Australian governments agreed to form a new airline company. The British government withdrew from TEAL in October 1953, leaving New Zealand and Australia as joint owners, and the New Zealand government assumed full ownership in April 1961.
In 1947 the New Zealand government established NZ National Airways Corporation (NAC), which was the primary operator of domestic air services in this country. In April 1978 NAC merged with Air New Zealand, becoming its domestic arm. The enlarged Air New Zealand was the first local carrier to offer both international and domestic services.
State-Owned Enterprises are born
The State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986 – the key provisions of which took effect on 1 April 1987 – heralded a major overhaul of New Zealand’s state sector. A number of government departments became commercially oriented organisations with an emphasis on efficiency and profitability.
The SOEs were a cornerstone of ‘Rogernomics’, the dramatic liberalisation of the New Zealand economy which followed the election of the David Lange-led Labour government in 1984. The name derived from Minister of Finance Roger Douglas, the main driving force behind the controversial initiatives.
For decades governments had used the state sector to minimise unemployment. But the new SOEs were to be run along private sector lines, which in many cases meant drastic cuts in staff numbers. These were painful times for many and things got worse following the October 1987 sharemarket crash. By that time Lange and Douglas were at odds over the pace of change in economic policy. Lange famously recommended ‘pausing for a cuppa’ while Douglas insisted that this was not the time to hesitate. Eventually Lange sacked Douglas and his key ally Richard Prebble. When caucus invited both men back into the fold, Lange responded by resigning in August 1989. A little over a year later Labour experienced its worst election result since 1931 as the National Party swept back to power.
4th April 2001
Silvia Cartwright becomes Governor General
The swearing in of Dame Silvia Cartwright as New Zealand’s governor-general (the local representative of the British monarch) completed a remarkable female clean sweep of the country’s most powerful political and legal positions.
Present at her swearing in were Prime Minister Helen Clark, Opposition leader Jenny Shipley, Chief Justice Sian Elias and Attorney-General Margaret Wilson.
The first woman governor-general of New Zealand was the former Mayor of Auckland, Dame Catherine Tizard, who held the post between 1990 and 1996.
Dame Silvia came to prominence when she headed an inquiry into the treatment of women with cervical cancer at National Women’s Hospital, Auckland. In 1993 she became New Zealand’s first female High Court judge. Her term as governor-general ended in 2006 when she was succeeded by Anand Satyanand.
5th April 1932
Death of Phar Lap
The champion racehorse Phar Lap has been the source of great trans-Tasman debate and rivalry. New Zealand-born and -bred, Phar Lap raced primarily in Australia. Of his 51 races, he won 37 and was placed second or third in five others. At the height of his career he was as close to a ‘sure bet’ as was possible in the unpredictable world of horse racing. From the autumn of 1930 he won 33 of his last 35 races, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup. In the gloom of the great Depression Phar Lap’s exploits thrilled the people of two countries.
Phar Lap arrived in Australia as a two-year-old. A bright red chestnut, he grew to a huge 17.1 (1.74 m) hands high, earning nicknames such as ‘Big Red’ and ‘The Red Terror’. His name meant ‘lightning’ in the Thai language, and he lived up to it with his ability to finish races with a surge of speed. While he was no looker, with warts all over his head, this mattered little to the punters.
Having conquered Australasia, Phar Lap was on the verge of repeating the effort in America. On 24 March 1932 he won the rich Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico by two lengths and in record time. Invitations to race in major meetings in the eastern United States flooded in. Unfortunately, Phar Lap died mysteriously on 5 April. There were suspicions that he had been fed poisoned grass, but the real cause was never established.
In death both New Zealand and Australia wanted its share of the champion’s remains. His heart, which weighed an incredible 6.3 kg, went to Canberra while the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne obtained his hide. His bones were returned to New Zealand and the complete skeleton is on display at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington.
7th April 1856
First state secondary school opens in Nelson
The first state secondary school in New Zealand, Nelson College opened in temporary premises in Trafalgar Street with a roll of just eight boys. It eventually attracted boys from around the country as well as the local area. It now has a roll of over 1000 and continues to take both boarders and day pupils.
Notable old boys include Nobel Prize winner Ernest Rutherford, Victoria Cross recipient Leonard Trent, Commonwealth Secretary-General and deputy Prime Minister Don McKinnon, and two Labour Prime Ministers: Wallace (‘Bill’) Rowling and Geoffrey Palmer.
A team from Nelson College took part in the first game of rugby played in New Zealand when it played the Nelson club in May 1870.
8th April 1873
Julius Vogel becomes Premier
Julius Vogel was the dominant political figure of the 1870s, serving as Colonial Treasurer and premier on several occasions, and borrowing heavily to invest in a massive public works and immigration programme.
Born in London of Jewish-Dutch parentage, Vogel worked as a journalist and editor in Australia before settling in Dunedin in 1861. In 1869 he became Colonial Treasurer in William Fox’s government. To revive the faltering economy he set up a bold 10-year programme of public works and large-scale assisted immigration. This was to be funded by extensive borrowing on the London money market. The rapid and cheap acquisition of M?ori land by the Crown was a prerequisite for this policy. Vogel and his supporters were certain that M?ori and settlers would be reconciled after the recent New Zealand Wars once M?ori and their land were fully integrated into the European economy.
Vogel served as premier until July 1875 and for another seven-month period in 1876. His ambitious and revolutionary programme altered the shape of the colony.
9th April 1932
Unemployed disturbances in Dunedin
During the ‘angry autumn’ of 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, unemployed workers in Dunedin reacted angrily to the refusal of the Hospital Board to offer them assistance.
Trouble had first flickered in Dunedin in January, when a crowd of unemployed besieged a grocery store. It resurfaced on 9 April, when protesters stoned the mayor’s relief depot and tried to storm the Hospital Board’s offices. They were dispersed by baton-wielding police.
The Dunedin disturbances were repeated in Christchurch, Wellington and – most dramatically – in Auckland’s Queen Street on 14 April.
The Wahine disaster
Television report of the disaster
The sinking of the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine on 10 April 1968 was New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster. Fifty-one people lost their lives that day, another died several weeks later and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained in the wreck. The Wahine’s demise also marked a coming of age for television news broadcasting in New Zealand as images of the disaster were beamed into the nation’s living rooms. The footage was later screened around the world as the international media spotlight focused on Wellington.
Would-be rescuers stood helplessly on the beach at Seatoun as the Wahine succumbed to one of the worst storms recorded in New Zealand history. It seemed impossible that so many lives could be lost so close to shore. Although the main cause of the accident was the atrocious weather conditions, the subsequent inquest also acknowledged that errors of judgement had been made both on board the ferry and on shore. Shipwrecks were commonplace in the 19th century, but this was the 1960s – how could a large, modern vessel founder almost within sight of New Zealand’s capital city?
11th April 1919
Soldiers' votes derail prohibition campaign
A keenly contested national referendum on 10 April initially gave prohibition a majority of 13,000, apparently confirming the hopes of those who had for decades campaigned against the manufacture and sale of alcohol. But the votes of nearly 40,000 troops overseas, aboard ships or in New Zealand camps were still to be counted. Fighting for King and country was clearly thirsty work – more than 32,000 of these soldiers voted to retain the right to drink, overturning the interim result.
A second referendum, held alongside the December 1919 general election, delivered another agonisingly close result that again maintained the status quo. Although the prohibitionist cause remained strong until the mid 1930s, New Zealand would never again come as close to banning the bottle as it did in the twin referenda of 1919.
14th April 1932
Unemployed riots rock Queen Street
Auckland’s Queen Street riot of 14 April was by far the most destructive of the disturbances that rocked the four main centres in the ‘angry autumn’ of 1932.
Post and Telegraph Association members marching to a Town Hall meeting were joined by a large crowd of relief workers, swelling numbers to perhaps 15,000. Angry at being turned away from the overflowing hall, some demonstrators scuffled with the police barring the entrance. When a leader of the unemployed, Jim Edwards, rose to speak – apparently to urge calm – he was struck down by a policeman. The crowd erupted and surged down Queen Street. Armed with fence palings and stones from a minigolf course in Civic Square, they smashed hundreds of shop windows and looted jewellery, liquor, clothing and tobacco.
Reinforced by armed sailors and volunteers, the police regained control of the central city several hours later. Hundreds were injured, including several policemen, and 35 looters were arrested. Government forces were bolstered the next day by 98 Waikato Territorial troops and 1000 ‘special’ constables, but violence flared again that night. As crowds massed in Karangahape Road, scuffles broke out and more windows were smashed; the night ended with another 35 arrests and 50 injuries.