New Zealand History/Mid to Late Twentieth Century

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Back to New Zealand in World War II

Major Events in the Mid to Late Twentieth Century[edit]

1947 - Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947[edit]

New Zealand gained total independence from Britain, through the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act of 1947. New Zealand today is an independent member of the British Commonwealth.

The British monarch is the constitutional head of state, although plays no part in the running of New Zealand. The Governor General, who is generally a New Zealander, represents the monarch in New Zealand's Parliament.

1953 - Tangiwai Rail Disaster[edit]

At 10:21pm on Christmas Eve 1953, a lahar from a nearby volcano knocked out the rail bridge over the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, just before the Wellington–Auckland night express train was due to cross it. The train plunged into the flooded river at high speed, killing 151 of the 285 passengers on board. At the time it was the eighth biggest rail disaster the world had seen. The whole nation, with a population of just over 2 million were stunned. For his actions in attempting to stop the train by running along the line waving a torch, Arthur Cyril Ellis was awarded the George Medal, New Zealand's highest civilian award.

1967 - Introduction of a Decimal Currency[edit]

A decimal currency was introduced to New Zealand, replacing the old system of pounds, shillings and pence.

The first decimal coins were introduced on the 10th of July 1967.

1981 - Springboks Rugby Tour[edit]

With the controversial tour of New Zealand by the South African Springboks rugby team, many New Zealanders were unhappy because the South Africans were still involved in apartheid. The tour was approved by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, and the Government didn't intervene because the Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, had a policy that politics shouldn't interfere with sport.

The protests against the tour were some of the most violent in New Zealand history. Protesters filled the streets outside stadiums where games were being played, and successfully invaded the pitch at some games, stopping gameplay.

After the tour, the popularity of Rugby Union in New Zealand decreased until the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 1987.


Forward to Famous New Zealanders in the Twentieth Century