Massive prohibition petition presented to Parliament

30 October 1918

Prohibition poster, early 1920s (Alexander Turnbull Library, Eph-D-ALCOHOL-Prohibition-01)

Prohibition supporters presented Parliament with a petition containing more than 240,000 signatures demanding an end to the manufacture and sale of alcohol in New Zealand.

Since the 1880s the campaign for prohibition had developed into a powerful mass movement. During the First World War, its supporters promoted sobriety as a ‘patriotic duty’. In 1915 and 1916 nearly 160,000 New Zealanders signed petitions calling for hotels to close at six o’clock. In 1917 the government agreed to restrict opening hours to increase the efficiency of the workforce (see 2 December).

The 1918 petition showed that support for prohibition remained strong. Early closing hours were now made permanent. The liquor trade offered little resistance, judging that reduced opening hours had calmed the wider prohibition movement and were preferable to a total ban.

Prohibition was only narrowly defeated in a special referendum held in April 1919 (see 10 April), and again at a vote held alongside the general election in December 1919. The cause continued to enjoy strong support at the polls in the 1920s.