Communists and Pirates: The stranger parties of NZ's past and present

Communists and Pirates: The stranger parties of NZ's past and present
Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

In 2018 we're accustomed to a Parliament mostly made up of red and blue with a dash of green and black, but for most of our political past that wasn't the case.

For the first 37 years of New Zealand’s government, there weren't even any formal parties, just factions among MPs. When the Liberal Party emerged in 1891, other politicians realised that banding together under one name made their message easier to market.

Since then nearly a hundred parties have come and gone, so let's look at some of the the most important, most controversial and most hilarious from our past and present.  

Memorable parties who never held seats:

New Zealand Communist Party

Founded: 1929

Dissolved: 1994

Our Communist Party lasted the better part of a century before dissolving a few years after the Soviet Union. It is survived in spirit today by the "Communist League" and "Socialist Aotearoa" parties.

National Socialist Party

Founded: 1969

Dissolved: Unknown

The closest full-blown Nazism ever got to mainstream New Zealand politics was, thankfully, not that close at all. The party was led by extreme right wing figure Colin King-Ansell - who was also the party's sole candidate. The party never formally registered and never came close to winning any elections but did became a focal point for anti-semitic and racist discourse in New Zealand. The party survives in diluted form in the 'New Zealand National Front', also headed by Colin King-Ansell.

The Values Party

Founded: 1972

Dissolved: 1990

At the other end of almost every spectrum, the Values Party was possibly the first national-level environmentalist party in the world. They were the Greens before the label 'Green' even existed. They ran a very successful campaign in the 1975 general election, receiving over 5 percent of the vote - but in those pre-MMP days that didn't cut it and they never made it into parliament.

Satirical Parties

Communists and Pirates: The stranger parties of NZ's past and present
Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

McGillicuddy Serious Party

Founded: 1984

Dissolved: 1999

Our most prominent satirical party lasted over 15 years and mocked politics in general, selecting new candidates through 'trial by combat', using newspaper swords and water balloons.

Among its many intentionally absurd policies:

  • Mandatory homosexuality for 33% of the population (a response to conservative rhetoric against homosexuality at the time)

  • Good weather (but only if voters behaved)

  • Full employment by carpeting national highways, which would also save wear and tear on tyres

Imperial British Conservative Party

Founded: 1974

Dissolved: Unknown

Founded by our very own 'Wizard of New Zealand', Ian Channel, this party poked fun at monarchists and republicans alike by claiming to support imperialism, the British, and hardline conservatism. The party even had a presence in Australia, contesting several federal elections. The Wizard's official title on party documents was 'dole bludger'.  

Memorable single issue parties

Join Australia Movement Party

Formed: 2011

Dissolved: Still active

They want what their name suggests, a full political union with Australia through New Zealand becoming their 7th state. They put one candidate forward in the 2011 Botany by-election and received 45 votes. Given the lack of public appetite for their primary policy, it was an impressive result.

No Commercial Airport at Whenuapai Airbase Party

Founded: 2008

Dissolved: 2008

You could make an argument that this was one of the more successful parties in NZ history, despite never winning any seats or even formally registering. The party formed for a year, got what they wanted, and then disbanded. While it's unlikely they played a pivotal role in the final decision, the absence of a commercial airport at Whenuapai Airbase is an enduring monument to their success.

Interesting contemporary parties

The Pirate Party of Aotearoa

Founded: 2009

Dissolved: Still active

A party modelled off the Swedish Pirate Party, focusing on copyright law, online privacy and net neutrality. To be honest, it makes our list based on the name alone.

Not A Party (NAP)

Founded: 2015

Dissolved: Still active

A party so ironic they're almost a paradox, with no policies other than 'honesty' and a platform of anti-political engagement. Their candidate in the 2016 Mt Roskill by-election promised: "My message to voters is just don’t, I pledge that if elected, I’ll be a no show."

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