Izzy France

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde, distinguished politician, social campaigner, business advisor, and activist. The woman who introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill to Parliament

Fran Wilde, distinguished politician, social campaigner, business advisor, and activist. The woman who introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill to Parliament

Fran Wilde, born in Wellington in 1948, is a distinguished politician, social campaigner, business advisor, and activist. Wilde spent her early life in Wellington, attending Victoria University and Polytechnic and becoming a journalist before an intense passion for social issues in New Zealand in the 1970s propelled her into the political realm.[1]

Wilde was elected to Parliament as the MP for Wellington Central in 1981, entering Parliament alongside other leading women including Helen Clark and Ruth Richardson. She served as Parliamentary whip in the fourth Labour government between 1984 and 1987 and served as Minister of Tourism and Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control during Geoffrey Palmer’s prime minister-ship from 1989-1990. During her time in Parliament, Wilde advocated strongly for recognition of rape with marriage, a strongly feminist driven reform, nuclear free NZ, and adoption reform.[2]

Wilde (left) during her term as Wellington’s mayor. Source: National Library.

Wilde is best known for her landmark achievement in introducing and heralding the Homosexual Law Reform Bill through Parliament between 1985 and 1986, which legalized consensual sex for homosexuals over the age of 16 in New Zealand. Wilde stated that she viewed it as a significant gap in New Zealand’s human rights laws, a long standing problem from Victorian colonial era laws concerning sex.

Considering the work needed to pass the bill, Wilde noted that “I don’t think we realized how big the reaction would be, we knew there would be a negative reaction, but I don’t think anyone realized how massive, and nasty, and vindictive it would be, it was truly ugly.”[3] Wilde battled with a team of Labour MPs to get the bill over the line in an 18 month campaign which saw many of New Zealand’s social conservatives mobilize and attack the gay community in virulently homophobic attacks, and with low levels of public and parliamentary support, the bill faced a narrow chance of passage from the outset.[4]

Alongside Trevor Mallard, who worked to help secure the votes and keep a running tally of the MPs who had pledged to vote for the law, and others such as Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, the bill successfully proceeded through its second reading and committee stages before passing after a third reading with 49 votes for and 44 against on 9 July 1986.[5] Wilde noted in 2016 that if 3 people had changed their minds, the bill would not have succeeded.[6]

Wilde with Governor General Patsy Reddy in 2017. Source: Office of the Governor General.

Though Wilde is perhaps best known for her shepherding the HLRB, her career in politics has spanned far beyond her parliamentary service between 1981 and 1992. In 1992, Wilde resigned from Parliament so that she could run for mayor of Wellington, an election she won with 32.91% of the vote to become Wellington’s first female mayor.[7]

During her single term as Wellington’s Mayor between 1992 and 1995, Wilde oversaw the construction of the city-to-sea bridge, the adoption of the current city slogan “absolutely positively Wellington” and helped carry through the plans for the construction of Westpac stadium. At the completion of her mayoral term Wilde decided to step away from politics, citing a need for more personal time, but would later serve on the Wellington regional council from 2004-2016, marking a uniquely lengthy career in local politics for someone who had previously been an MP.[8]

Throughout her career in politics, Wilde has been at the forefront of a number of social changes, advocating firmly for social justice issues at all levels of government. Her work on the Homosexual Law Reform Bill continues to benefit New Zealanders, and as she noted “Had the Christian fundamentalist lobby been successful they would have just moved in a big wave across a whole lot of other issues as well and that would have set New Zealand society back hugely.”[9]

Outside of politics, Wilde has served on numerous business, public, and corporate boards, including Housing New Zealand, Kiwi Can Do, a service that helps to get unemployed New Zealanders into skilled work, and the board of Te Papa, the national museum.[10] As recognition of her long service to the New Zealand public in a range of capacities, Wilde was made a Dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the State and the community.[11] Wilde is still active in a number of roles in governance and community work and was honored for her efforts in passing the Homosexual Law Reform Bill at a panel with Trevor Mallard, the only current MP involved in the passage of the bill in 1986.

Liam Perkins
Liam Perkins

I’m Liam, I am 23, currently working on my MA project in US queer history in the 1970s.
I got involved with WHNZ to learn more about New Zealand history and contribute material to a database that would help others do so, as well as practice writing for different audiences. I really enjoy being able to learn and write about new topics on regular basis and helping others to do so.

Recommended Further Reading:


Image Bibliography:
  1. Marilyn Waring: A woman’s view of parliament from 1975 to 1984 | Fran Wilde seen with Marilyn Waring
  2. Mayor of Wellington, Fran Wilde, with… | Items | National Library of New Zealand | National Library of New Zealand (
  3. Wilde with Governor General Patsy Reddy in 2017. Source: Office of the Governor General. The HonourableDame Fran Wilde, of Wellington,DNZM, for services to the State and the community | The Governor-General of New Zealand (

Published: August 6th, 2021

Last modified: November 6th, 2021

Cite as: Liam Perkins, “Fran Wilde”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified November 2021,