A guide for researchers giving a broad overview of the types of political material that our collections have to offer and other places you can find New Zealand political history resources.
About this guide
This guide lists a range of useful collections that you can use for researching New Zealalnd political history. It includes descriptions and examples of the types of political material that each collection contains. The guide covers research material that is both available online and physical collections at the Library as well as research material from other sources.
Searching for content
If you aren't sure where to start searching our digital collections, we suggest doing a website search. The website search includes the National Library catalogue, the Turnbull Archival Collections catalogue, and lots of other information about the collections. You can also search our two catalogues, National Library catalogue and Turnbull Archival Collections catalogue.
For more detailed guidance on how to navigate the National Library database use our guide on how to research with our digital content from home.
- Research with our digital content from home
- Search tips for searching on the National Library website
- National Library website search
- National Library Catalogue — published materials (books, magazines, audio and websites)
- Turnbull Archival Collections catalogue — unpublished materials (manuscripts, images, audio, physical items and social media)
Viewing original items
Original materials in the collections are viewable onsite. To organise an onsite viewing you need to register with us and request the item you are interested in viewing or contact through our Ask a librarian service
Send an enquiry
If you find something you are interested in when you are searching the website and want to know more send us an enquiry using the 'Send an enquiry' button on the website page or use the Ask a librarian service.
The Library holds hard copies of Parliamentary publications dating back as far as 1854.
Parliamentary debates (Hansard) are held from 1854, with Hansard up to 1987 available on the open shelves.
We hold the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR) and other Parliamentary Papers from 1860 onward. The Journals of the House of Representatives record the proceedings of the House minus the speeches and debates.
Since 1999 all the papers except for the Select Committee Reports are published as Parliamentary Papers. Parliamentary Papers include:
- Annual Reports of government departments
- Statements of Intent
- budget documents
- Law Commission reports
- Auditor-General reports
- Commissions of Inquiry reports
- International Treaties
The Schedules to the Bills are in the final bound volume for each year or Parliamentary term. The final bound volume also includes:
- the Members of Parliament
- Chairpersons of Select Committees
- statistics for business of Parliament
- Schedules of Petitions presented
- Schedule of Select Committees
- Schedule of Papers presented to Parliament.
Parliamentary Bulletin publications are held from 1986 to present.
Publications produced between 1931 to 2002 are available on open shelves in the general reading room.
Parliamentary publications online
- New Zealand Legislation — holds records of Acts, Bills and secondary legislation.
- New Zealand Legal Information Institute (NZLII) — provides access to legal information, as well as records of New Zealand historical bills up to 2008, available through the Historical Bills section.
- Papers Past — Parliamentary Papers — digitised versions of the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives and Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives from 1854 to 1950.
- New Zealand Parliament — provides access to publications produced since 2002.
New Zealand and Pacific Collection
The New Zealand and Pacific Collection contains published materials such as books, journals, magazines, audio and websites.
Books held at the Library cover a vast scope of political topics including:
- party manifestos
- party constitutions
- published research
- opinion pieces
Most material is available only in physical form.
When you are searching the website, if you find physical items you'd like to access or want to know more about use the 'Send an enquiry' button on the website page.
- New Zealand and Pacific Collections website search — political parties
- The New Zealand and Pacific Collection — general information about the New Zealalnd and Pacific Collections at the Alexander Turnbull Library
- National Library catalogue search — political parties online items — search for New Zealand and Pacific Collections items available online that can be accessed anywhere.
- National Library Catalogue search — political parties.
New Zealand Web Archive
The New Zealand Web Archive contains historical iterations of websites, captured at various points in time, including past versions of currently active sites, as well as many sites that are no longer online.
The Web Archive serves as an extensive resource for exploring the political history of recent decades, including party politics, MP careers, as well as the fluctuating prominence and development of specific policies, policy directions and public opinions regarding political issues.
Politics-related captures include iterations of political party sites, candidate sites, council sites, news sites, media, social media and other commentary.
The government and politics section of the Web Archive contains central government and Crown Entity websites, including specific event collections such as the New Zealand General Elections collection and New Zealand Local Body Elections collection.
- The New Zealand Web Archive
- New Zealand General Elections collection
- New Zealand Local Body Elections collection
Archived political websites
Captures relating to general elections date back as far as 1999. Captures relating to local body elections date back as far as 2007. The captures include party sites, candidate sites, election sites, council sites, lobby group sites, news, blogs, social media and other commentary.
Major political party sites have been captured multiple times each year since 2008, and sites of non-registered parties have been captured in response to topical issues. Blog and commentary sites are also captured regularly, which cover a range of political perspectives.
Archived social media about General Elections
In 2017, the Library started to collect social media relating to the General Elections.
Political parties websites
Archived captures, such as this example of New Zealand First’s 1999 website, include working links to pages such as MP lists, policy outlines and press releases, which provide researchers quick and easy access to a range of information as made available at specific points in time.
Internet Archive's Wayback machine
The National Library’s Web Archive is not the only archive that exists and researchers may need to look in a few different places to find certain website captures. If one of our links isn’t working, you may find what you're looking for through another archive such as the Internet Archive.
The Ephemera Collection is an intriguing assortment of mostly physical items dating from 1840 to present.
Political ephemera held by the Library include campaign posters, signs, press releases, fliers, newsletters, advertisements, booklets and policy outlines. Some born-digital material is also contained in ephemera, such as an extensive collection of politics-related memes that have been collected since 2020.
Ephemera provides insight into the public spread of political information and offers a surprisingly detailed history of subjects such as political movements, specific policies, politicians and party politics.
- Ephemera Collection
- Memes collected by the Alexander Turnbull Library
- Turnbull Archival Collections catalogue —entering ‘EPH’ or ‘EPHDL’ (digital ephemera) in the Reference Number search field may be useful.
Pre-internet political ephemera
With the Library’s Web Archives dating back as far as 1999, the Ephemera Collection serves as a useful tool for finding information circulated publicly during decades prior to 1999, such as pamphlets from 1980's, which detail Labour’s economic plan prior to their election.
The Manuscripts Collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library contains the unpublished records of individuals and organisations, with documents dating back to the 1830s. Materials include personal correspondence, party correspondence, political papers, research papers, letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, editorials, emails, journals, notebooks, diaries, administrative files, ministerial records, pamphlets, essays, conference material, minutes, surveys, policy summaries and other written items.
Various retired New Zealand politicians and influential political figures have donated documents collected throughout their careers, enabling the Manuscripts Collection to provide detailed insight into the history and development of political parties, movements and policies, as well as the lives of the people themselves.
While some manuscripts are digitised, the majority must be viewed on site at the library.
- Manuscripts Collection
- Manuscripts Collection website search
- Turnbull Archival Collection catalogue — Entering ‘MS’ in the Reference Number search field may be useful to narrow your results.
New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive
The New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive contains cartoons and caricatures from the 19th century to the present, including over 60,000 cartoons reflecting New Zealand society and politics.
Many of these cartoons are from New Zealand newspapers, and have been critical in shaping public perceptions and opinions regarding influential political figures, parties and issues throughout the nation’s history, such as this example from 1984 titled ‘Muldoonism 1975-1984’, which aided in the establishment of the term ‘Rogernomics’.
The Newspapers section of Papers Past may be more useful if searching for content dating back to the 19th or early 20th century.
To learn more about cartoons in the collections have a look at the New Zealand Cartoons research guide and the Comics and Zines research guide.
- New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive
- New Zealand Cartoons research guide
- Comics and Zines research guide.
The Photographic Archive contains items from the 1840s to the present, including prints, negatives, albums, transparencies and digital photographs.
There are a few particularly useful collections that contain political material. The Stout family collection portrays politicians, their work, families and lives, state funerals and memorials. The Evening Post illustrations file contains photos concerning ethics, parties, controls, elections, government buildings, parliaments and politicians.
The Library also houses collections based around individual parties, as well as political decisions, agendas and public responses to political issues, such as state housing and the Civil Union Bill.
Photographs have been donated by both political parties and individuals involved in politics, such as Bill Rowling, Harry Holland and Marilyn Waring.
The General Reading Room at the Library contains a physical file prints section, which contains photographs covering a range of political areas. The file prints section also contains portraits, drawings and a selection of ephemera.
Oral history and sound
The Oral History and Sound Collection consists of more than 10,000 recordings. Interviews from an extensive range of New Zealanders have been recorded, including people from various iwi, hapū and political affiliations. Talks, readings and events are also covered.
Most of the collection has been recorded since the 1960s, covering New Zealand society, culture, community, and political history from the late 19th century to the present.
Interviews usually have accompanying documentation, including an abstract. A few interviews are fully or partially transcribed. Photographs and other relevant material are sometimes included.
There are Māori oral history projects and recordings of talks, lectures and other events in te reo Māori.
The Papers Past website delivers digitised full-text New Zealand and Pacific newspapers, magazines, journals, letters, diaries, books and parliamentary papers from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Newspapers, Books and Letters and Diaries sections include material from as early as the 1830s, while the Magazines and Journals section includes material from 1861-2017 and the Parliamentary Papers section includes material from 1854-1956.
The Newspapers and Magazines and Journals sections provide insight into historical public opinions and popular culture.
The Parliamentary Papers section is particularly useful for political history researchers, as it includes the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHRs) and the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives.
These collections contain material published every year between 1858-1950. Later papers may be accessed in hard copy at the Library reading room or through the Ask a librarian service.
National Newspaper Collection
The National Newspaper Collection contains newspapers from New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific. It is the country’s most comprehensive collection of historical New Zealand newspapers, with material dating back as far as 1839.
Original, microfilm and digital copies of newspapers in this collection are available at the Library's Wellington Reading Room. The microfilm collection is self-service.
Digital copies of early New Zealand newspapers and periodicals, such as the below segment taken from the Otago Daily Times in 1949 are available on Papers Past. Māori Niupepa are also available through Papers Past.
If you are in the Library's reading room recent articles can be found using Press Reader.
- National Newspaper Collection
- Papers Past
- Press Reader database — available if you are at the Library reading room.
Turnbull Named Collections
The Turnbull Named Collections are the personal libraries of collectors, which have been donated to the Library.
Concerning political material, there are a few particularly useful named collections.
- Turnbull Named Collections
- Fraser Collection — donated by former Prime Minister Peter Fraser, encompasses a variety of subjects including New Zealand politics, history, education, socialism and labour unions.
- Arthur Nelson Field Collection — contains over 2,500 titles of right-wing and fascist material.
- Wright Collection — is made up of 550 titles concerning ethics, morality, health, philosophy, religion and theology.
- Ian F. Grant Cartoon Research Collection — was donated by Ian F. Grant, who founded the NZ Cartoon and Comics Archive.
National Library e-resources
The Naitonal Library subscribes to free and subscription resources to help you with your research, for example, online journals, articles, newspapers, magazines, e-books, multimedia content and research databases. A wide range of political content is available, including government and legal resources, as well as literature on critical issues.
Other places to look for NZ political history resources
Archives New Zealand
Archives New Zealand contains Prime Ministers’ papers and collections from various Ministers and Speakers of the House, as well as the Private Office of the Prime Minister. There are also Cabinet Office subject files and meeting minutes, Select Committee and Petition files from the Office of the Clerk, and records from Parliamentary and Ministerial Services. Formats include text, photographic, audio, video and some objects.
These are regarded as personal records and may reflect their interests in particular areas as well as their ministerial portfolios.
Archives New Zealand usually do not have MP or Ministers’ electorate office records. These may be found at the National Library or their local library.
Political party material may be held if a Minister was also a party leader.
New Zealand Parliament
The New Zealand Parliament website provides access to records and information concerning bills, laws, select committees, debates, order papers, papers presented, journals of the house, petitions, parliamentary rules and research papers.
The site also contains overviews of current MPs, parties and electorates, and an educational section that covers the history of New Zealand Parliament and government systems, as well as outlining how parliament works and how laws are made.
Papers presented from 2002 onward are available in digital format on the Parliament website, under the Current Papers section.
Papers presented prior to 1951 are available in digital format through Papers Past.
Papers presented between these two dates are available in hard copy only, in the Library reading rooms or through the Parliamentary Library.
- Parliament website
- Parliament website — current papers — Papers presented since august 2002
- Papers Past
New Zealand Legislation
The New Zealand Legislation website contains records of acts, bills and secondary legislation.
New Zealand Legal Information Institute
The New Zealand Legal Information Institute (NZLII) website provides free access to legal information in New Zealand.
Records of New Zealand historical bills up to 2008 are available through the NZLII’s Historical Bills section.
Ministry of Justice
The New Zealand Ministry of Justice website contains information regarding courts, tribunals, policy, Māori land and other Ministry of Justice resources.
UN Official Document System
The United Nations Official Document System contains born-digital UN documents from 1993 onward, and scanned documents from 1946 to 1993.
United Nations iLibrary Database
The United Nations iLibrary is a comprehensive global search, discovery, and viewing source for digital content created by the United Nations.
The OECD iLibrary is the online library of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), featuring its books, papers and statistics, and is the knowledge base of OECD's analysis and data.
New Zealand History
New Zealand History’s Politics and Government section contains information concerning national political milestones, protest and reform, Treaty of Waitangi, Māori leadership, heads of state, Parliament, government, and New Zealand’s role in the world.
New Zealand Now
New Zealand Now’s History & Government section provides outlines of national milestones, The Treaty of Waitangi, our constitution, central government, local government and New Zealand’s legal system.
List of links to online and physical resources
Below is a list of most of the links mentioned in this guide
The Library offers a mixture of online and physical resources. Online resources include:
- New Zealand Web Archive
- Papers Past
- National Library e-resources
- New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive — born-digital material since 2005, with earlier material available in physical form, and some earlier material available digitally.
Physical collection items
Collections that include mostly physical items include:
- New Zealand and Pacific Collection
- Manuscripts Collection
- Ephemera Collection
- Photographic Archive
- National Newspaper Collection
- New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive — material prior to 2005 available in physical form, and some earlier material available digitally. Born-digital material since 2005,
Within largely physical collections, some material is available digitally, or may be made available digitally upon request via Ask a librarian.
Research material from other sources
While this guide primarily assists researchers in finding New Zealand politics-related material within National Library databases, it also contains links to useful outside resources, such as:
- Archives New Zealand
- New Zealand Parliament
- New Zealand Legislation
- New Zealand Legal Information Institute (NZLII)
- Ministry of Justice
- United Nations Official Document System
- United Nations iLibrary
- OECD iLibrary
- New Zealand History’s Politics and Government section
- New Zealand Now’s History and Government section
Research with our digital content from homeThis guide will help you start using digital content from the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library from home.
Feature image at top of page — Detail from image of SAFE protest to ban testing on animals, Wellington, July 2013. Owen, Dylan, 1958-: Photographs. Ref: PADL-000940. Alexander Turnbull.