Story: Parades and protest marches

Since colonial times New Zealanders have taken to the streets to celebrate success or promote causes. Sporting processions have seen people bursting with pride at local prowess, but sport also caused public pandemonium in 1981 when thousands marched against a tour by the South African rugby side.

Story by Ben Schrader
Main image: Tickertape parade for Peter Blake and Team New Zealand

Story summary

All images & media in this story

Since the 19th century New Zealanders have paraded in their streets to celebrate successes or protest against injustice.

Military parades

In early times soldiers paraded through the street to show the state’s strength, or to encourage men to join the army. As New Zealand entered overseas wars there were marches to farewell soldiers and to welcome them home again. After wars there were parades remembering battles and heroes. Anzac Day parades every 25 April now include the children and grandchildren of soldiers who have died.

Royal visits

In 1869 when the Duke of Edinburgh visited New Zealand thousands gathered to see a member of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II was the first reigning monarch to visit and received a rapturous reception in 1953–54 – parades and celebrations were nationwide, and two-thirds of New Zealanders caught a glimpse of the new queen.

School’s out

School children and graduating students have paraded in the streets. University students on their annual ‘procesh’ sometimes engaged in wild antics – once a group dressed as policemen and made mock arrests. Students also joined protests for peace and against the Vietnam War. Graduation parades have become more formal.

Local parades

Communities often celebrate jubilees and anniversaries with parades. In Napier there is an annual art deco parade. Most cities hold a Santa parade in December. Circuses used to parade to drum up business.

Workers’ protests

Workers have taken to the streets to protest about wages and working conditions. From 1890 workers’ parades celebrated the anniversary of the eight-hour working day. Striking workers sometimes faced violent opposition to marches. In Waihī in 1912 striking miners, their wives and children took part in protest marches. Strike-breakers and police stormed the miners’ hall and shot dead a miner. When the government reduced unions’ powers their influence waned and there were fewer workers’ marches.


A 1924–25 All Black rugby team won all its games in the Northern Hemisphere and paraded through the streets on its return. Yachtsmen won the America’s Cup and also got big city parades. Sport caused public displays of rage when protesters marched against the 1981 tour by the South African Springbok rugby team.

Māori land protest

There have been major hīkoi or protest marches by Māori. In the 1975 land march people walked the length of the North Island and thousands went to Parliament to protest against the loss of land. Loss of legal rights to the foreshore and seabed also led thousands to march on Parliament in 2004.

How to cite this page:

Ben Schrader, 'Parades and protest marches', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 April 2023)

Story by Ben Schrader, published 11 Mar 2010