New Zealand History/Mid to Late Twentieth Century

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

1947 - Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1947[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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.

1985 - Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior[edit | edit source]

In 1985, The New Zealand Government funded the voyages of the Greenpeace 'Rainbow Warrior'. These voyages were designed to protest and prevent the French nuclear testing in the Mururoa Atoll. The French Government, in conjunction with the w:DGSE, planned to bomb the civilian vessel. Today, this action would be condemned as a Terrorist Attack or State Sponsored Terrorism. On 10th of July, 1985, French agents, using scuba equipment, began to plant the limpet mines on the hull of the civilian craft. The first bomb went off at 23:48. The crew of the Rainbow Warrior initially evacuated, but some of the crew returned to investigate the damage. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, was collecting photographic equipment at his cabin. Then, at around 23:51, the second bomb went off. The rapid flooding killed Fernando Pereira.

Initially, the French Government denied any involvement of the bombing. The French statement from the New Zealand embassy was "the French Government does not deal with its opponents in such ways". When tried, two of the French agents, Dominique Prieur and Alain Marfart, pleaded guilty of manslaughter and wilful damage. Their sentences were 10 years and 7 years respectively, but were transferred to the Hao Atoll, a French Base, to receive a lesser sentence.

Then they were released within less than two years.

1987 - Māori Language Act[edit | edit source]

The Maori language Act, signed in 1987, gave official legal status to to the Maori language (Te Reo Maori). This was in response to a revival in Maori culture in New Zealand, and the Waitangi Tribunal, which was called forth to make amends to the supposed breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. This Tribunal found breaches on both the Crown and Maori sides, and large portions of land was returned to the various Maori iwi. This act also gave the privilege to New Zealand citizens to use Te Reo Maori in court.

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