Jim Bolger

Jim Bolger

Infobox_Prime Minister

honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name=James Brendan Bolger
honorific-suffix = ONZ
order=35th Prime Minister of New Zealand
term_start=2 November 1990
term_end=8 December 1997
(#expr:(1997)-(1990)-((12)<(11)or(12)=(11)and(08)<(02)) years)
monarch= Elizabeth II
governor-general= Dame Catherine Tizard
Sir Michael Hardie Boys
predecessor=Mike Moore
successor=Jenny Shipley
deputy=Don McKinnon (1990-1996)
Winston Peters (1996-1997)
order2=25th Leader of the Opposition
term_start2=26 March 1986
term_end2=2 November 1990
predecessor2=Jim McLay
successor2=Mike Moore
birth_date=Birth date and age|1935|5|31|df=yes
birth_place=Taranaki, New Zealand
spouse=Joan Riddell (married in 1963)
constituency =King Country; later renamed Taranaki-King Country
religion=Roman Catholic
profession=Politician, businessman

Rt. Hon. James Brendan "Jim" Bolger, ONZ (born 31 May 1935) was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1990 to 1997.

Early life

Bolger was born in Opunake, Taranaki to immigrants from Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland. He left school at age 15 to work on the family farm.cite web|url=http://www.michaelbassett.co.nz/article_bolger.htm|title=Jim Bolger biography|author=Michael Bassett|date=December 1997|accessdate=2007-07-27] .

Member of Parliament

Bolger entered politics in 1972 as the New Zealand National Party Member of Parliament for the King Country electorate. He represented this electorate, renamed Taranaki-King Country in 1996, until his retirement in 1998. In 1975 he was made a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, first Minister of Fisheries and later Minister of Agriculture.

After the defeat of National at the 1984 general elections, Bolger and deputy leader Jim McLay challenged Muldoon for the leadership of the party. McLay succeeded, but in 1986 Bolger made another attempt and unseated McLay. Following an unsuccessful election in 1987, National under Bolger went on to win the biggest landslide in New Zealand history in 1990. As a result, Bolger became Prime Minister.

Prime Minister

Economic policy

Bolger's government initially continued the economic and social reforms of the previous Labour government, with Finance Minister Ruth Richardson implementing drastic cuts in public spending, particularly in health and welfare. Following the close 1993 general election Bolger demoted Richardson to the back benches and appointed Bill Birch, who was seen as more moderate.

Foreign policy

Bolger's government continued the previous Labour government's anti-nuclear policy.

Electoral reform

In spite of his party's opposition, Bolger held a referendum on whether or not New Zealand should change from the British-style electoral system of 'first past the post' to one of proportional representation. In 1992, New Zealanders voted to change to the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system. This was confirmed in a binding referendum held at the same time as the 1993 general election, which National won. Bolger had originally proposed a return to a bicameral system, with an elected Senate, but this proposal was dropped in the face of support for electoral reform.


In 1994 Bolger caused surprise by suggesting that New Zealand should became a republic, as had been suggested in Australia by Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating. Bolger denied that his views relate to his Irish heritage.cite book|title=Bolger: A view from the top - my seven years as Prime Minister|author=Jim Bolger|publisher=Viking|year=1998|ISBN=0670883697] Bolger's call for a republic was publicly disavowed by three Cabinet ministers (John Carter, John Banks and Simon Upton), and support for a republic remained around one third of the population. Proposals to end the status of the Privy Council as the country's highest court of appeal also failed to gain popular support, however the current Labour government abolished the right of appeal in 2003. Bolger's government also ended the awarding of British honours in 1996, introducing a New Zealand Honours System. At a conference on the "Bolger years" in 2007, Bolger recalled speaking to the Queen about the issue of New Zealand becoming a republic: "I have more than once spoken with Her Majesty about my view that New Zealand would at some point elect its own Head of State, we discussed the matter in a most sensible way and she was in no way surprised or alarmed and neither did she cut my head off." [citeweb| url=http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10436441|title=Bolger told Queen monarchy's time numbered|author=Maggie Tait|accessdate=2007-04-27]

MMP politics

In 1996 New Zealand had its first election under MMP, and Bolger became caretaker Prime Minister until a coalition with a majority in parliament could be formed. Both Bolger and Labour leader Helen Clark sought the support of New Zealand First, which held the balance of power in the new House. Its leader, Winston Peters, had left the National Party to form his own party, and opposed many of the free-market reforms implemented by National, and Labour before it. In December a coalition was formed between National and New Zealand First, with Peters being appointed to the new post of Treasurer (senior to the existing post of Finance Minister, which was given to National's Bill Birch).

Treaty of Waitangi settlements

Bolgers' government settled three major claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. Largely due to the work of Bolger's Minister of Justice and Treaty Negotiations, Sir Douglas Graham, the Ngāi Tahu, Waikato-Tainui and fisheries settlements were reached. However, the creation of the so-called "fiscal envelope" of $1 billion for all settlements of claims - an effective limit on what the Crown would pay out in settlements - by the Bolger government was an unpopular move with Māori.


Growing opposition to Bolger's slow pace led Transport Minister Jenny Shipley to stage a caucus coup in 1997. Bolger was out of the country at the time, and when he returned he found that he did not have enough support in his caucus to remain as party leader and prime minister. He resigned on 8 December, and Shipley became New Zealand's first woman prime minister. He was subsequently made a junior minister in Shipley's government.

Life after politics

He retired as MP for Taranaki-King Country in 1998, prompting a by-election in that electorate and was subsequently appointed to the position of Ambassador to the United States. On his return to New Zealand in 2001, he was appointed Chairman of the state-owned New Zealand Post and its subsidiary Kiwibank. He also chairs Express Couriers Ltd, Trustees Executors Ltd, the Gas Company Ltd, the Advisory Board of the World Agricultural Forum, St. Louis, USA, the New Zealand United States Council, and the Board of Directors of the Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy. Bolger was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1997.

On 1 July 2008, almost 15 years after his National-led Government sold New Zealand Rail Ltd, the Labour-led Government repurchased its successor Toll NZ Ltd (less its Tranz Link trucking and distribution arm), having repurchased the track network in 2003. Bolger became chair of the company, renamed KiwiRail. Some people, including Winston Peters, view this as hypocritical. In response, Bolger acknowledged his involvement in privatising New Zealand Rail, remarking that "my life is full of ironies." [ [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10519449 Govt: We paid top dollar for rail (+video) - 2 July 2008 - NZ Herald: New Zealand National news ] ]

Bolger was elected Chancellor of Waikato University on 14 February 2007, succeeding John Jackman. In April 2007 Bolger revealed at a conference that he suffers from the painful nerve disease trigeminal neuralgia, which is not life-threatening .

Bolger and his wife Joan are Roman Catholics with nine children. Bolger voted pro-life whenever the issue came up in a conscience vote.

External links

* [http://www.primeminister.govt.nz/oldpms/1990bolger.html Prime Minister’s Office Biography]


* Bolger was quasi-affectionately nicknamed "Spud" because of his facial features and Irish ancestry. The Royal New Zealand Air Force nicknamed his Boeing 727 "Spud One". Bolger disliked the "Spud" tag but he answered to it when journalist Bill Ralston addressed him in a press conference, "Yo, Spud".
* During a public appearance with an Irish Prime Minister, Bolger (who tended to mirror those he was talking to) embarrassingly spoke in an Irish accent. Fact|date=December 2007

ee also

*Republicanism in New Zealand


NAME=Bolger, James Brendan
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Prime Minister of New Zealand, politician
DATE OF BIRTH=May 31 1935
PLACE OF BIRTH= Taranaki, New Zealand

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