Dawn Raids (New Zealand)

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

Entry last updated: 19/12/19


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.

Facts and pictures

In this section we'll look at what the dawn raids were and why they happened.

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 have expired.

Both these websites belong to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa.

  • If you search using the keywords 'dawn raids' you will see that there is information spread over several different entries, including sections on Ethnic and religious intolerance.
  • 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 another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa.

The article on the dawn raids is shorter than those in Te Ara, but they are placed in context so you can read what else was happening in New Zealand at the same time. Check out the page 1976 Key Events.

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.

Interviews and documentaries

In this section we'll look at stories of people's personal experiences. We'll also look at some primary sources, like recordings and cartoons that were made at the time.


One really excellent source of information is documentaries. NZOnScreen has a full length documentary called Dawn Raids which you can watch online in four parts. This is a great way to get a real feeling for the events of the past.


RadioNZ has podcasts and on-demand radio programmes. Listen to Smart Talk: Pacific Sound to hear Oscar Kightley and others talk about Pacific Island culture in New Zealand music. As part of this programme they talk about the events that shaped their cultural identity, including their experiences of the dawn raids.

The sound recording is 50 minutes long, but you can skip ahead to 13.00 minutes and hear Danny 'Brotha D' Leaosavai'i talking about his personal experience of the dawn raids and why he named his company Dawn Raid Entertainment.

To do this:

  1. first, tap or click on the pink play arrow and the audio recording will open in a pop-up box
  2. then, to skip ahead to 13.05 minutes, tap or click on the blue circle at the left of the screen, and
  3. drag the blue circle to the right until the numbers under the circle say 13.05 / 50:49.
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.

Current views on overstayers

The dawn raids happened in the 1970s. In this section we'll look at more recent attitudes towards visa overstayers and migrant workers in New Zealand and worldwide.


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'.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Another EPIC resource, this site can help you find different views about overstayers around the world, including articles which look at whether overstaying is a serious problem or not.

  • It has some great articles about visa overstays and illegal aliens in the United States of America.
  • Some keywords in the articles are underlined. If you click on these underlined words you will get a list of other articles on the same topic. Choose any of the items in the list to jump to that article.
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.


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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