The issue of rugby contact with South Africa would dog New Zealand throughout the 1970s. Prior to 1970 Māori players were excluded from All Black sides touring South Africa because of that country’s unwritten (and later written) policies of racial segregation. In 1960 more than 150,000 New Zealanders signed a petition opposing that year’s tour – still one of the largest petitions in our history. Māori players were selected for the 1970 All Blacks tour but had to visit South Africa as ‘honorary whites’. Many felt this was no improvement and condemned the NZRFU for agreeing to these terms. Others argued that sport and politics should remain separate. The All Blacks lost the series 3–1 after being defeated 20–17 in the final test.
The 1960s had concluded with major protests over plans to raise the level of Fiordland’s Lake Manapōuri to create sufficient hydro-electric power for a new aluminum smelter at Tiwai Point, Bluff. In May 1970 the Save Manapouri Campaign presented New Zealand’s then largest-ever petition to Parliament. It contained some 260,000 signatures – nearly 10% of the population. Following its victory in the 1972 general election, Labour passed legislation protecting the natural level of the lake.
Motor racing driver and designer Bruce McLaren, 32, died while testing one of his Can-Am series cars on the Goodwin circuit near Chichester, England in June. McLaren had become the youngest Grand Prix winner in 1959 with victory in the United States. During his Formula One career he won four races and placed in the first three 27 times. He was runner-up in the Formula One world championship in 1960. His abilities as an analyst, engineer and manager contributed much to the success of the cars that still bear his name today. His McLaren Racing Team established in 1963 has been one of the most successful in Formula One championship history, thanks to stars such as Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
United States Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s visit to New Zealand in January sparked violent confrontations outside his hotel between anti-Vietnam War demonstrators and police. Many protesters and some media accused the police of over-reacting to the demonstrations.
The presence of a high-ranking American politician was bound to attract the attention of the strong anti-war movement in this country. The protests attracted widespread media attention here and in the United States. Agnew told reporters that he didn’t find the demonstrators ‘really worth a great deal of comment’.
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