A group of protestors out front of the beehive holding placards.

Political history

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.

A group protests in front of the Beehive, they wear white and hold placards with the slogan, 'hop to it'.
SAFE protest to ban testing on animals, Wellington, July 2013. Owen, Dylan, 1958-: Photographs. Ref: PADL-000940. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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.

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.

Ask a librarian

A black and white group portrait of male politicians standing on the steps of Parliament.
Members of Parliament and staff on the steps of Parliament House ca. 1912. Photograph taken by John Henry Brown. Ref: PAColl-5669-02. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Parliamentary publications

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
  • Regulations

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
  • Parties
  • 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 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:

  • biographies
  • autobiographies
  • 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.

The cover of a book with black background and orange text, featuring four commas in alternating orange and white colours.
Robert Muldoon, 1921-1992 (2013). Wellington, New Zealand, Manatū Taonga.

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.

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.

2017 New Zealand General Election candidate Twitter archives

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.

Screen grab of basic internet website from 1999 with black background and header image showing a shoreline, New Zealand flag, and on the left, a portrait of Winston Peters.
New Zealand First website, archived by the National Library of New Zealand on October 13, 1999.

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.

Internet Archive

Ephemera collection

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.

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.

Eph-C-ROTH-Labour-1980s

Manuscripts collection

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.

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.

Shows Roger Douglas blowing up a bust of Robert Muldoon. Accompanying note from cartoonist states 'This cartoon proved to be quite prophetic in that Douglas demolished almost every trace of Muldoon's legacy but the name was wrong!' Douglas's reforms became known as "Rogernomics".
Taranaki daily news. Lynch, James Robert, 1947- :'Muldoonism 1975-1984'. 12 November 1984. Ref: DCDL-0024893. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Photographic Archive

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.

A black and white photo showing an interior office scene with Prime Minister David Lange presenting a bible, pen and pen holder to Governor General Sir Paul Reeves. Also present is Cabinet secretary and clerk of the Executive Council Patrick Millen.
David Lange, Sir Paul Reeves, and Patrick Millen in Parliament House, Wellington, 1985. Photograph taken by Ross Giblin, Dominion Post. Ref: EP/1985/5128/7-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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.

Oral History and Sound Collection

Papers Past

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.

A sample of the cover page of a document from the New Zealand House of Representatives from 13 April, 1858.
House of Representatives (1858) Sale and Transfer of Land. Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1858 Session I, D-01.

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.

A crop from a column of a newspaper showing a headline, subheading and body text.
Otago Daily Times (1949) Not Admitted: Communists and Labour Party, 21 May 1949, Page 6.

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.

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.

National Library e-resources

A screen grab from the BWB website showing thumbnails of different book covers in two rows of six.
Bridget Williams Books, The Critical Issues Collection.

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.

Archives New Zealand

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.

New Zealand Legislation

The New Zealand Legislation website contains records of acts, bills and secondary legislation.

New Zealand Legislation website

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.

New Zealand Ministry of Justice

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 Official Document System

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.

United Nations iLibrary

OECD iLibrary

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.

OECD iLibrary

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 History’s Politics and Government section

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. 

New Zealand Now’s History & Government section

Below is a list of most of the links mentioned in this guide

Online resources

The Library offers a mixture of online and physical resources. Online resources include:

Physical collection items

Collections that include mostly physical items include:

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:


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.