1917 Bay of Islands by-election

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1917 Bay of Islands by-election

← 1915 by-election 19 March 1917 (1917-03-19) 1919 general →
  Vernon Herbert Reed.jpg
Candidate Vernon Reed
Party Reform
Popular vote elected unopposed

Member before election

William Stewart

Elected Member

Vernon Reed

The 1917 Bay of Islands by-election was a by-election held on 19 March 1917 during the 19th New Zealand Parliament in the Northland electorate of Bay of Islands. The by-election came about because Vernon Reed's win in the 1914 general election had been declared void by an electoral court, and Reed barred from standing for a year. The seat was won by William Stewart, Reed's Reform Party colleague, in the resulting 1915 by-election. When Reed became eligible again, Stewart resigned and Reed won the 1917 by-election unopposed.


Reed was first elected to the Bay of Islands electorate in the 1908 general election as a candidate of the Liberal Party.[1] The 1911 election resulted in significant losses for the Liberal Party and Joseph Ward's government survived a no-confidence motion on the casting vote of the speaker only. Ward chose to resign, though, and made way for a new liberal Prime Minister, Thomas Mackenzie.[2][3] Reed expected to be part of the new cabinet and the media discussed that he might be appointed Attorney-General due to his legal background.[4] Reed was invited to cabinet, but he did not join because the majority of the cabinet did not support his views of freehold.[5] When the Mackenzie government faced a no-confidence vote in July 1912, Reed voted with the opposition, thus effectively joining the Reform Party.[6]

General election, 1914: Bay of Islands[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Reform Vernon Reed 2,328 38.01 -13.76
Liberal Peter Buck 2,220 36.25
Reform George Wilkinson[nb 1] 1,576 25.73 -22.49
Majority 108 1.76 -1.78
Informal votes 61 0.99 -0.11
Turnout 6,185 85.58 5.61
Registered electors 7,227

Table footnotes:

  1. ^ George Wilkinson had been the official Reform Party candidate in the 1911 election whilst Vernon Reed had stood for the Liberal Party, but in 1914, Reed became the official candidate of the Reform Party.[8]

Reed's switch to Reform caused problems in the 1914 election. George Wilkinson had been the Reform candidate in the Bay of Islands electorate in 1911, he was keen to represent Reform in that electorate in 1914, and he had the backing of the local electorate committee.[9] Reed also wanted to run for Reform, and as he had the backing of the party head office, he was declared the official Reform candidate.[10] Reed narrowly won the election against Te Rangi Hīroa of the Liberal Party, with Wilkinson coming third.[11] Bill Veitch, at the time a United Labour Party MP in Wanganui, claimed that Wilkinson had been under immense pressure from the Reform Party not to contest the Bay of Islands election, and that William Massey had promised him a seat in the Legislative Council in return,[12] an allegation later picked up by other media outlets but also implicating Reed in the affair.[13]

This complaint was elevated to a formal election petition in April 1915 by Waipapakauri resident Edward Evans and Edward Parsons of Waipuna on the Whangaroa Harbour, who engaged a King's Counsel, John Findlay, and a solicitor, Bill Endean, as their counsel. Reed used his brother John, also a King's Counsel, as his legal representative. The primary complaint was that Reed had, through an intermediary, tried to convince Wilkinson to retire by promising him a seat on the Legislative Council, and to reimburse him for his election campaign expenses. On 8 May 1915, the petition was upheld Justice Chapman and Justice Hosking, the election declared void, and Reed barred from standing in another election for one year.[14][15] Since 1913, there have been over 100 by-elections held in New Zealand, and this was one of only five cases where a general election was declared void by the courts.[16]

1915, Stewart won the 8 June 1915 by-election against George Gardiner Menzies of the Liberal Party.[17]

1915 Bay of Islands by-election[18][19]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Reform William Stewart 3,264 59.51
Liberal George Gardiner Menzies[20] 2,221 40.49
Majority 1,043 19.02 +17.25
Informal votes 6 0.11 -0.88
Turnout 5,491 75.98 -9.60
Reform gain from Liberal Swing
Registered electors 7,227

The New Zealand Herald was the first newspaper to report on 5 March 1917 that Stewart had resigned;[21] the effective resignation date is recorded as 2 March.[17] The editor of the North Otago Times offered the following explanation:[22]

Mr Stewart silently served in the House of Representatives as a sort of political warming pan for the Bay of Islands seat while Mr Vernon Reed, its former occupier as a supporter of the Reform Party, marked time during the period of his technical disqualification as a candidate at the 1914 election. Immediately that time was over, Mr Stewart resigned owing to pressure of private business.

Stewart's explanation, however, was that he had made a hurried decision when he consented to standing in the 1915 by-election, and that soon after, he realised that he would have to give up his business if he wanted to effectively represent his constituency.[23] Stewart maintained that he had intended to hand in his resignation several months earlier, but was persuaded to await the return of William Massey and Joseph Ward, who were in England to attend the Imperial War Conference.[23] Massey and Ward left with their wives sometime after the 1916 session of Parliament finished on 8 August (newspapers had been instructed to not report their travel arrangements, but the news leaked out that they were travelling on the Rotorua via the Panama Canal), and they arrived in England in early October, expecting to leave again in November.[24][25] But there were significant delays with the Imperial War Conference and in the end, it occurred from 21 March to 27 April 1917. As the next session of the New Zealand Parliament was expected to begin in June 1917, Stewart went ahead and handed in his resignation in early March, so that a new representative could be chosen before the session would begin, even though Massey and Ward were still in England.[23]

After the 1914 election, the Reform and Liberal parties had reluctantly entered into a wartime coalition.[26] Part of the agreement was that in case of a by-election, the incumbent party would not be opposed by the other coalition party.[27]

Result and aftermath

The writ was immediately issued when the resignation was announced, with a 10 March newspaper advertisement giving 19 March as the nomination date, and an election to be held on 29 March (if necessary).[28] Reed announced his candidacy on the day the news of Stewart's resignation broke.[29][30] Frank Herbert Phillips, who had been interpreter for the Legislative Council for many years, claimed to have received a strong requisition, but did not come forward as a candidate.[23] Various chambers of commerce in Northland passed resolutions calling for the unopposed return of Reed to save the costs of a by-election.[31] No other candidate coming forward, Reed was declared elected unopposed on nomination day.[32]

One year later on 7 May 1918, Stewart was appointed to the Legislative Council.[33] Reed remained the representative of the Bay of Islands electorate until he was defeated in the 1922 election.[1]


  1. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 228.
  2. ^ Bassett, Michael. "Ward, Joseph George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  3. ^ Brooking, Tom. "Mackenzie, Thomas Noble". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  4. ^ "The Party's Choice". Auckland Star. XLIII (72). 23 March 1912. p. 5. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  5. ^ "Mr. Vernon Reed's Position". The Evening Post. LXXXIV (26). 30 July 1912. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  6. ^ "The Ministry Defeated". The New Zealand Herald. XLIX (15039). 8 July 1912. p. 8. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  7. ^ Hislop 1915, p. 1.
  8. ^ "Political Gossip". The Marlborough Express. C (266). 16 November 1914. p. 3. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Bay of Islands". Auckland Star. XLV (133). 5 June 1914. p. 2. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Parliamentary Candidates". The Timaru Herald. CI (15505). 16 November 1914. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Other contests". The Evening Post. LXXXVIII (141). 11 December 1914. p. 3. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  12. ^ "Public Patronage". Poverty Bay Herald. XLI (13540). 17 November 1914. p. 9. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  13. ^ "The Wilkinson Case". The Evening Post. LXXXIX (119). 21 May 1915. p. 6.
  14. ^ "Bay of Islands Petition". Waikato Times. 84 (13163). 29 April 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Bay of Islands Seat". Te Puke Times. 11 May 1915. p. 3. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  16. ^ "100 years of by-elections in New Zealand: 1913–2013". Parliamentary Library. 5 November 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  17. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 236.
  18. ^ "Bay of Islands Election". The Evening Post. LXXXIX (144). 19 June 1915. p. 6. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  19. ^ "Bay of Islands Election". King Country Chronicle. IX (775). 2 June 1915. p. 5. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  20. ^ Cyclopedia Company Limited (1902). "Mr. George Gardiner Menzies". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand : Auckland Provincial District. Christchurch: The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  21. ^ "News Summary". The New Zealand Herald. LIV (16480). 5 March 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  22. ^ "The Upper House". North Otago Times. CVI (14115). 8 May 1918. p. 3. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  23. ^ a b c d "Bay of Islands Seat". The Dominion. 10 (3021). 7 March 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  24. ^ Bassett 1993, chapter 15.
  25. ^ "Arrived Safe". The Star (11824). 9 October 1916. p. 3. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  26. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 75f.
  27. ^ "Local and General". Wairarapa Daily Times. LXX (146031). 9 August 1916. p. 4. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Electoral". Auckland Star. XLVIII (60). 10 March 1917. p. 8. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  29. ^ "Bay of Islands Seat". Te Puke Times. 9 March 1917. p. 3. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Bay of Islands Electorate". The Evening Post. XCIII (56). 6 March 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  31. ^ "Bay of Islands Seat". Auckland Star. XLVIII (62). 13 March 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  32. ^ "Bay of Islands Election". Auckland Star. XLVIII (67). 19 March 1917. p. 6. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  33. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 164.


  • Bassett, Michael (1993). Sir Joseph Ward: A Political Biography. Auckland University Press.
  • Hislop, J. (1915). The General Election, 1914. National Library. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
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