Dawn Raids (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about the Dawn Raids in the 1970s in New Zealand?

Entry last updated: 13/09/21


In the 1970s the New Zealand police went to the homes of Pacific Islanders who they believed had overstayed their visas or work permits. Many people were sent back to the Pacific Islands. The police would often arrive very early in the morning and so they became known as the dawn raids.

The regulations on overstayers had not been enforced in this way before and many people have criticised how the government handled the situation. At the time it was argued the enforcement was justified in light of the economic downturn that meant fewer jobs and higher welfare costs in New Zealand.

History of the dawn raids

In this section, we'll look at some reliable New Zealand websites that are best for this topic. They have articles, stories, recordings, images and videos, some of which are good primary sources on the dawn raids.

Let's start with some terminology:

  • visas and work permits are documents that allow a person to come into New Zealand and work for a set period of time.
  • overstayers are people whose permits and visas have expired.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • If you search using the keywords 'dawn raids' you will see that there is information spread over several different entries, including Intolerance towards Pacific migrants.
  • You will also see a link to images and media which includes photographs, pamphlets and film clips from the time.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Tips: Try using a variety of search words, or keywords in your searches, e.g. overstayers , immigration, race relations. Also try some more specific search words like Samoan and Tongan . You will get different results using different keywords.

NZ On Screen

This is an online showcase of New Zealand television, film and music videos. Especially useful for NZ history queries requiring a primary source or multimedia information.

  • Search for 'dawn raids' to find a full-length documentary called Dawn Raids.
  • Search for 'polynesian panthers' to watch Polynesian Panthers.
  • This is a documentary about a group of Polynesians who came together to stand up for the rights of the Pasifika community in the face of racism and the dawn raids.

RNZ (Radio New Zealand)

This is New Zealand's public radio service on New Zealand news, current affairs, Pacific, Te Ao Māori, sport, and business. It has links to podcasts, radio stations and on-demand radio programmes.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on all things New Zealand. It connects you to reliable digital collections from a variety of libraries, museums, galleries, government departments, the media, community groups and others.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

BWB Texts Collection (BWB)

This is one of the EPIC databases. It is a collection from Bridget Williams Books. They are short books about big subjects by New Zealand writers.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

NZ Electronic Text Centre

Maintained by the Victoria University of Wellington Library, these are digitised New Zealand and Pacific Island texts and material available for researchers but can be accessed by anyone.

This site uses Google to search, so the results will look like a normal Google search but all the results are from the NZETC.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Current views on overstayers

The dawn raids happened in the 1970s. Here we will look at more recent opinions about visa overstayers and migrant workers in New Zealand.


This site has up to date New Zealand news and press releases. It's a good source for different points of view.

  • Try a search for 'overstayers'.
  • Use the date boxes below the search box to narrow your search results down to press releases and articles published in the past year or so.
Tips: It’s worth checking out what the other major news sites have on a topic too: CNN (American), PBS News (American), ABC News (Australian) and our own Television New Zealand. They will all have links to world news.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

This is one of the EPIC resources, a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.

  • This particular database has lots of newspaper and magazine articles.
  • Search for your keywords eg 'overstayers' or 'dawn raids'.


On Sunday 1 August 2021, the New Zealand Government gave an apology for the dawn raids. This was through a speech from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Auckland Town Hall. It included a Samoan ifoga ceremony which symbolises asking for or receiving forgiveness.


This is the official website of the New Zealand Government and here you can find information about Government initiatives, policies, and Ministers. It includes transcripts of speeches.

  • Select the tab Speeches.
  • In the search box enter 'dawn raids'.
  • Find Speech to Dawn Raids Apology to find the full transcript of the speech given by the prime minister.

RNZ (Radio New Zealand)

Look at this site again to find news and videos about the dawn raids apology.

Tagata Pasifika

Tagata Pasifika is the Pacific news show for TVNZ (Television New Zealand). 


There are lots of books about New Zealand history and society which include chapters or articles about the dawn raids. Check with your school or local public library to see what they have.

One recommended book title is:

SCIS no: 1834461

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