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Frontier Of Dreams

Sundays 6.40am | TV ONE

The Rise of Labour

The establishment of the Labour Party in 1916 brought socialists in Parliament together. Labour had the purest socialist ideals, they wanted every sector of the economy in public ownership and wanted the government to own all land.

In 1919 an Australian socialist, Harry Holland, became leader of the Labour Party. But his ideas weren't well received in New Zealand. Labour's policy of forbidding the private ownership of land was not popular for people who dreamed of owning their own home.

By the end of the 1920s the Labour Party had mellowed and was decidedly less Marxist. It no longer wanted the state to own all the land and supported the ownership of private property. This was a turning point that finally made it attractive to many New Zealanders.

But its leader Harry Holland was still a liability, tainted by his militant and unappealing image. Critics in the party wanted to remove him but he still had a strong personal following. Then fate took a hand.

In October 1933 the Maori King Te Rata Mahuta died. Holland attended his funeral. He arrived from Wellington with other dignitaries including Apirana Ngata. But Holland felt ill. Ngata advised him not to climb Waikato's Taupiri Mountain with the funeral procession. But Holland ignored the advice and soon after the burial he suffered a heart attack and died.

Maori saw Holland's death as an omen and prophesied that this sacrifice would mean the success of Labour at the next election. Like many countries we would turn out our old government and go down a different path that for us would produce a charismatic and revered leader and one of the most defining periods in our whole story.