Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
James Brendan “Jim” Bolger, ONZ was the 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1990 to 1997. He was elected on the promise of delivering a “Decent Society” following the previous Labour government’s economic reforms.
Bolger was born in 1935 in Opunake, Taranaki. He was one of five children whose parents emigrated together from Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland in 1930.
Bolger entered politics in 1972 as the New Zealand National Party Member of Parliament for the King Country electorate. He represented this electorate, renamed Taranaki-King Country in 1996, until his retirement in 1998. In 1975, he was made a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, first as New Zealand’s Minister of Fisheries and Associate Minister of Agriculture (1977), later as Minister of Labour following the 1978 election.
After the defeat of the National Party at the 1984 general elections, Bolger and deputy leader Jim McLay challenged Muldoon for the leadership of the party. McLay succeeded, making Bolger his deputy, but in 1986 Bolger made another attempt and unseated McLay. Following an unsuccessful election in 1987, National under Bolger went on to win the biggest landslide in New Zealand history in 1990. As a result, Bolger became Prime Minister at the age of 55.
When he resigned on 8 December, 1997, he served as a minister in Prime Minister Shipley’s government. He retired as Member of Parliament for Taranaki-King Country in 1998, and was subsequently appointed to the position of Ambassador to the United States.
On his return to New Zealand in 2001, he was appointed Chairman of the state-owned New Zealand Post and its subsidiary Kiwibank. He also chairs Express Couriers Ltd, Trustees Executors Ltd, the Gas Industry Company Ltd, the Advisory Board of the World Agricultural Forum, St. Louis, USA, the New Zealand United States Council, and the Board of Directors of the Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy.
Bolger was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1997. In February 2007, he was elected Chancellor of Waikato University.