NZ in the world - 1945-87

Page 3 – Related topics

This page includes links to features on NZhistory which provide case studies of a range of significant historical events relevant to the study of New Zealand's search for security after the Second World War.

1. New Zealand’s involvement in the Cold War

Much of New Zealand’s search for security in the period after the Second World War was dominated by the intense ideological struggle between the anti-communist bloc of Western nations and the Communist powers, in particular the Soviet Union and China. The Cold War was a significant historical event which saw New Zealand seek a closer alignment with the United States in in matters of defence. As a result New Zealand moved further away from its traditional ally Britain. In seeking to contain the spread of communism in Asia New Zealand participated in a number of conflicts in the region. The 1951 waterfront represented another aspect of the Cold War being fought at home.

*Note also was launched in 2008 as part of the Vietnam War Oral History Project. This is the hub for memories of New Zealand and the Vietnam War.


2. What new directions did New Zealand foreign policy take after the Second World War?

New Zealand showed its ongoing commitment to the concept of collective security by playing an important role in the establishment of the UN in June 1945. Hoping to succeed where the League of Nations had failed during the 1930s member nations resolved to stand together in the face of aggression, while at the same time working together to find solutions to the social, economic and cultural problems of the world.

Involvement in the UN was another way in which New Zealand moved away from its traditional reliance on Great Britain and led to the adoption of an increasingly independent foreign policy.

3. New Zealand's role on the wider international stage

When New Zealand and Australia aligned themselves with the United States via the ANZUS agreement in 1951, they effectively accepted the protection of what some described as the nuclear umbrella. From the 1960s New Zealand consistently protested against nuclear testing in the Pacific but its defence arrangements meant that it engaged with nuclear weaponry in other forms. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s two key issues emerged: opposition to French nuclear tests at Mururoa and to American warships' visits to New Zealand. The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in July 1985 was a defining moment in this period.


4. The 1981 Springbok Tour

The 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand resulted in the largest civil disturbance seen in this country since the 1951 waterfront dispute. South Africa had been isolated by the international community in response to its racist apartheid policies. A previous tour by the All Blacks to South Africa in 1976 had resulted in many black African nations boycotting the Montreal Olympics in protest. The 1981 tour once more brought the issue of sporting contacts with South Africa to the fore and divided a nation.


Relevant entries from Today in History

These short entries provide additional information regarding some of the key events and people associated with New Zealand's search for security after the Second World War. They include links to other websites that enable the reader to explore the story in greater depth.

How to cite this page

'Related topics', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-May-2016

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