Skip to main content
Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



The Movement in New Zealand

The history of the prohibition movement in New Zealand has been determined by its demand that the general question of the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor be decided by direct popular vote, and by its ultimate aim of a system of State-enforced total abstinence.

The movement first attained national importance and enjoyed its period of greatest political power in the 1890s. Although prohibition and temperance groups were neither united nor altogether clear in their aims before this period, they were, nevertheless, a feature of New Zealand social life from the earliest days of European settlement. There is a report of a temperance meeting being held in the Bay of Islands in 1834, and at Hokianga in 1842 a “teetotal society” was formed by members of the Wesleyan Methodist Mission Station there. The New South Wales liquor laws, nominally in force in New Zealand, were, in fact, freely contravened, and complaints of drunkenness, particularly among Maoris, were frequent.

Sporadic attempts by groups such as the Maine Liquor Law advocates were made to control the production and sale of liquor during the 1840s and 1850s, but these measures were largely ineffective. During the 1860s, however, the widespread drunkenness, which was such a feature of pioneering life, found a response in the foundation of a large number of temperance societies. The New Zealand Independent Order of Rechabites, a total abstinence benefit society, and a Band of Hope Union were both founded in Auckland in 1863. Other early groups were the International Order of Good Templars and the New Zealand division of the Sons and Daughters of Temperance, and, at a later stage, the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

During the 1860s most provinces passed licensing ordinances. Many of these contained a “permissive clause” giving residents the right to secure, by petition, the cancellation or granting of liquor licences in their district.


John Richard Sinclair Daniels, M.A., Local Government Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.