The Young Nats have been New Zealand’s largest youth political movement since we were founded in 1936. The Young Nats have a strong lobby inside the National Party.
Often the more open minded and liberal views of the Young Nats have been at odds with those in the senior party. The movement in party opinion in areas such as the nuclear ships debate, economic reform, liquor law reform, and anti-discrimination laws has often been led by the Young Nationals.
The National Party has had a youth section since its inception in 1936, and are a constituted youth wing of the National Party. The Young Nationals have been a strong lobby group inside the National Party, and often at the forefront of policy development being representative as a Core Group or a Policy Action Group of the party at varying times. For a short period during the party's earlier years there was a younger section of the National party for pre-teenage members but has since disappeared due to the changing environment of New Zealand politics and society.
Prior to the group being named the Young Nationals, the New Zealand National Party's Youth section was known as the Junior Nationals. In the lead up to the 1949 election, the Wellington branch had 3,500 members and the Auckland branch consisted of 2,500 members. The group hosted a number of community events such as dances, parties, debating/discussion, and Lectures/addresses.
In 1967 the group voted to change the name to the Young Nationals as Junior Nationals was seen to have potentially negative connotations. This renamed group attracted members for political reasons rather than social activities like its predecessor. In 1968 the National Party agreed to for two Young Nationals to sit on the party's Dominion Council. 1971 brought upon Young Nationals creating political discussion groups called 'Pol Link's' which enabled the group to research and discuss political issues allowing the National Party to understand the contemporary issues of young generations.
In 2009 the Young Nats were re-structured to be a more effective advocacy and campaigning body. The organisation is split across five regions (Northern, Central North Island, Lower North Island, Canterbury-Westland, Southern), each with their own Regional Executive teams and are overseen by an elected National Executive, led by the NZYN President.
The modern Young Nats are the largest grassroots campaign and policy group within the National Party and continue to be thought leaders for the future of the Party.
Famous former Young Nats
Many current National Party politicians began their careers in the Young Nationals. Other former Young Nats are high-ranking party officials and employees, professionals, farmers, successful entrepreneurs and business people. Some of the more famous Young Nats include:
- Rt Hon Sir Robert Muldoon: Prime Minister of New Zealand 1975-1984
- Rt Hon Sir John Marshall: Prime Minister of New Zealand 1972
- Rt Hon Sir Bill English: Prime Minister of New Zealand 2017
- Hon Ruth Richardson: Minister of Finance 1990 – 1993
- Rt Hon Winston Peters: Leader of NZ First 1992 – Present
- Rt Hon Simon Upton: Minister of the Crown 1990 – 1999
- Hon Dr Nick Smith: Minister of the Crown 1990 – 1999, 2008 – 2017
- Hon Tony Ryall: Minister of the Crown 1997 – 1999, 2008 – 2014
- Hon Murray McCully: Minister of the Crown 1993 – 1999, 2008 – 2017
- Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt OMZ: Speaker of the House 1999 – 2005
- Hon Simon Bridges: Leader of the National Party 2018-Present
- Marilyn Waring: Former National Party MP 1975-1984
- Peter Goodfellow: NZ National Party President 2009-Present
- Stefan Sunde: NZ National Party Board Member 2018-Present
- Sean Topham: Founder Topham Guerin
- Ben Guerin: Founder Topham Guerin
- 1969–1970: Chris Whitta
- 1970–1971: Eric Bowell
- 1971–1972: Lachlan Ross
- 1972–1973: Paul Matheson
- 1973–1976: Murray McCully
- 1976–1978: S Pearson
- 1978–1980: Martin Gummer
- 1980–1981: Simon Upton
- 1981–1982: Peter Kiely
- 1982–1983: Stuart Boag
- 1983–1984: Alastair Bell
- 1984–1985: Mark Lowndes
- 1985–1986: Phil O'Reilly
- 1986–1987: Craig Allan
- 1987–1989: Andrew Harvey
- 1989–1990: Wayne P Marriott
- 1990-1990: Bruce Alabaster
- 1990–1991: Elaine Enright
- 1991–1995: Shane Frith
- 1995–1996: Sarah Borrell
- 1996–1997: Mel Davis
- 1997–1999: Tim Hurdle
- 1999–2001: Daniel Gordon
- 2001–2003: Grant Tyrrell
- 2003–2005: Jamie Simpson
- 2005–2006: Michael Mabbett
- 2006–2008: Matthew Patterson
- 2008–2009: Alex Mitchell
- 2009–2012: Daniel Fielding
- 2012–2015: Sean Topham
- 2015–2016: Joel Rowan
- 2016–2018: Stefan Sunde
- 2018–Present: Sam Stead