New Zealand Liberal Party

The New Zealand Liberal Party was the first organised political party in New Zealand. It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying large tracts of Māori land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The Liberal Government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

Liberal Party of New Zealand
FounderJohn Ballance
Dissolved1928; 93 years ago (1928)
Succeeded byUnited Party
Political positionCentre
Colours  Yellow
SloganWe legislate no class but for all classes

New Zealand gained international attention for the Liberal reforms, especially how the state regulated labour relations.[1] It was innovating in the areas of maximum hour regulations, minimum wage laws, and compulsory arbitration procedures. The goal was to encourage unions but discourage strikes and class conflict.[2] The impact was especially strong on the reform movement in the United States.[3]

Coleman argues that the Liberals in 1891 lacked a clearcut ideology to guide them. Instead they approached the nation's problems pragmatically, keeping in mind the constraints imposed by democratic public opinion. To deal with the issue of land distribution, they worked out innovative solutions to access, tenure, and a graduated tax on unimproved values.[4]

Out of office after 1912, the Liberals gradually found themselves pressed between the conservative Reform Party and the growing Labour Party. The Liberals fragmented in the 1920s, and the remnant of the Liberal Party—later known as the United Party—eventually merged with Reform in 1936 to establish the modern National Party.