Allan Highet

Allan Highet

EP-NZ Obits-H-Highet Allan-tn.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Remuera
In office
26 November 1966 β€“ 14 July 1984
Preceded by Ronald Algie
Succeeded by Douglas Graham
19th Minister of Internal Affairs
In office
24 August 1975 β€“ 14 July 1984
Prime Minister Robert Muldoon
Succeeded by Margaret Austin
Personal details
David Allan Highet

27 May 1913
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died 28 April 1992(1992-04-28) (aged 78)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political party National
Spouse(s) Patricia Hoyles
Shona McFarlane
Occupation Accountant

David Allan Highet QSO (27 May 1913 – 28 April 1992) was a New Zealand politician. He was an MP from 1966 to 1984, representing the National Party for Remuera, holding the then largest majorities in the House.

Early life and family

Highet was born in Dunedin, the second son of David and Elsie Highet. He attended Otago Boys' High School. Highet's older brother, William Bremner Highet, was an Otago University scholar and professor of neurosurgery, who died when the Ceramic was sunk in 1942. Highet's uncle was Harry Highet, the civil engineer who designed the P-class yacht.

Highet attended the University of Otago, from where he graduated with a BCom.

Highet tried to enlist in the New Zealand Army in World War II, but was declined due to having suffered from tuberculosis in the 1930s. He served in the Home Guard, reaching the rank of Captain.

Highet practised as an accountant and businessman, and was active in the establishment of the Wellington division of the National Party.

In the 1950s, Highet was a Wellington City Councillor after winning a 1955 by-election.[1] In 1954, Highet won the National nomination for the Wellington Central electorate. Highet's opponent, Labour candidate Frank Kitts, went on to win the seat, and later became the longest-serving Mayor of Wellington.

Highet moved to Auckland in the 1950s, becoming the senior partner in Highet and Toomey, an Auckland accounting firm.

Highet was first married to Patricia Hoyles, and they had a daughter and a son.

In 1976, Highet married prominent New Zealand artist and television personality Shona McFarlane.[2]

Member of Parliament

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1966–1969 35th Remuera National
1969–1972 36th Remuera National
1972–1975 37th Remuera National
1975–1978 38th Remuera National
1978–1981 39th Remuera National
1981–1984 40th Remuera National

Highet was elected to Parliament in the 1966 elections as MP for the Auckland electorate of Remuera, succeeding retiring speaker Ronald Algie. He defeated future colleague George Gair for the nomination as National's candidate for the seat.

Highet was appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister John Marshall in 1971, becoming Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Local Government and associate Minister for Health and Social Welfare.

The National Party lost the 1972 elections, and Highet was in opposition until 1975. When Robert Muldoon contested the leadership of the National Party in 1974, Highet was one of two National MPs to support Marshall.

Cabinet Minister

With the National Party winning the 1975 elections, Highet was appointed to Cabinet again, becoming Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Local Government, New Zealand's first Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Sport.

Highet was particularly well regarded for his interest in the arts and sport, having been an opera singer and representative sportsman in his youth. Highet founded the National Youth Orchestra, and was a founding Director of the International Festival of the Arts. During his time as Minister for the Arts, Highet founded the New Zealand Film Commission, the Hillary Commission, and was actively involved in the organisation of the Historic Places Trust, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and the Arts Council.


In 1976, Highet introduced the Waitangi Day Act, changing the name of New Zealand's national day back to Waitangi Day.

In 1977, following a petition to the House, Highet introduced God Defend New Zealand, as New Zealand's official national anthem alongside God Save the Queen.

As Minister of Internal Affairs, Highet oversaw the passage of the Citizenship Act 1977, establishing a New Zealand Citizenship as a separate citizenship, and making British citizens legal aliens for the first time. In November 1979 Highet suggested that the design of the Flag of New Zealand should be changed, and sought an artist to design a new flag with a silver fern on the fly. The proposal attracted little support however.[3]

Think Big

In 1977, Highet introduced the expression "Think Big" in a speech to a National Party Conference, as a description of the Government's then-ambitious major projects in the Energy sector. Highet, as Minister of Racing, named the policy after Melbourne Cup-winning racehorse Think Big.

Highet was considered to be a social liberal, and was among a handful of economically liberal members of Muldoon's cabinet.

1980 Olympic boycott

Highet was Sports Minister when cabinet decided to support the United States-led boycott to the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Government stepped in and threatened the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (NZOCGA) with funding cuts and cancelled leave for competitors who were in the public service. Highet appealed to the athletes to "think beyond [their] own hopes and ambitions ... any athletes who did go to the Olympic Games would be letting New Zealand down".[4]

1981 Springbok Tour

Highet was Minister for Sport during the 1981 Springbok Tour. While Prime Minister Muldoon announced that the New Zealand Government would not intervene to stop the tour going ahead, Highet made public statements indicating that he could use his authority as Internal Affairs Minister, responsible for lotteries funding, to withdraw financial contributions to the New Zealand Rugby Union if the Tour proceeded.[citation needed]


Highet suffered grave illness in early 1984, one of the reasons Muldoon called a snap election. Highet retired from politics at the 1984 elections, at the age of 71. National Party member Doug Graham, who had unsuccessfully challenged Highet for the National Party nomination in 1981, won the selection, and succeeded Highet that year.

In the 1986 New Year Honours, Highet was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services.[5]


  1. ^ James, T. W. (10 February 1955). City By-Election (Report). Wellington City Council.
  2. ^ Traue, James Edward (1978). Who's Who in New Zealand, 1978 (11th ed.). Wellington: Reed Publishing. p. 179.
  3. ^ "New Zealand - Proposals for a new flag". Flags of the World. 29 September 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  4. ^ Leggat, David (3 September 2010). "Swimming: Overlooked 'Olympic' team recognised after 30 years". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  5. ^ "No. 50362". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 31 December 1985. p. 31.

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