In 1986 it was Russian bombs and GST

Darren Greenwood looks back at the year when Afghanistan was being bombed by the Soviet Union and the Amiga Ataris had just landed in New Zealand

Everything changes and everything stays the same.

In November 1986, Afghanistan was being bombed, but by the Soviet Union rather than the Americans.

But US President Ronald Reagan was confident after meeting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, that an end to the Cold War was possible.

Margaret Thatcher was on her way to a third term in office in Britain, while current leader Tony Blair was just a first-term MP. Kiwi-born Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was elected Premier of Queensland.

In New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange and Finance Minister Roger Douglas were well into their economic reforms, though in November of 1986 a sale of Petrocorp had just been postponed. New Zealand was opening up to free trade and a more commercial and cosmopolitan lifestyle.

A look at the newpapers of the time shows GST had just been introduced and stores, even though not as big as the superstores of today, were importing all the latest gadgets, in addition to the electrical and other goods then assembled in New Zealand.

Boxy-looking new Nissan Pulsar 1.3s were advertised in the New Zealand Herald (cost 40c) at $17,500 and 1.3 Sunnys were $19,995. Honda Accords were $28,000 and Civics $21,328. High tariffs meant expensive second-hand cars: $22,495 for a two-year-old 2.0L Ford Sierra estate and $12,495 for a three-year-old Ford Cortina.

CD players started at $600, camcorders were $5000 and dishwashers $1000, but cellphones were nowhere to be seen — never mind ISPs and the internet.

In the computer world, Supatech in Mt Eden advertised that Amiga Ataris “had just landed”. An Amiga PAL with external drive, colour printer, joystick and software cost $5600. An Apple McIntosh 512k with external disk drive and imagewriter printer was $5200. Commodore 64Ks were being sold from $395 and Commodore 128s $895. Computer Terminal in Birkenhead sold the BBC Master Series. Master Compacts with a 640KB disk drive cost from $2195 and BBC Master 128s with 128KB of RAM and 128K ROM were $1995.

Auckland Technical Institute advertised courses in languages such as New Lotus 1-2-3, Advanced Lotus 1-2-3, New Paradox and dBase III.

Software on sale included Lotus 1-2-3 v2.02 at $695; Paradox v1.1 $1995, Wordstar 2000+ $545, Wordperfect V4.1 $795, Xtree $139 and Mace Utilities $259. We could find no sign of Microsoft.

Elsewhere, the state got involved in housing, offering assisted mortgages up to $14,000 at 3%, and gave tax relief, though the general mortgage rate in 1986 was a whopping 16%.

However, a three-bedroom house in classy Remuera could be had for $125,000. A four-bedroom furnished villa to rent in yet-to-be trendy Ponsonby was $300 per week. Flat-sharing was typically $40 to $60 per week anywhere in Auckland.

Auckland Meat Centre was advertising rump and T-bone steak at $6.99 a kilo.

The Sunday News screamed that post-GST shopping prices “don’t look good”. They included a dozen No 6 eggs at $2.13, 500g of butter at $1.58, a loaf of sliced white bread costing between $1.24 and $1.35, Weetbix 750g for $2.05 to $2.28 and a 100g Nescafe refill for about $4. The post office announced that after losing $6 million a year the telegram service was no longer available outside weekday 9am to 5pm office hours.

The Bank of New Zealand was advertising its “autocard”, which was “quicker than a pen”, promoting its use at bank counters instead of cheques, but Eftpos and ATMs had yet to develop to their present ubiquity.

For entertainment, New Zealand had just two TV channels, One and Two. Sky, six-year-old CNN or yet-to-be-launched BBC World were nowhere to be seen. TV1 on Saturday nights had Ready to Roll, The Cosby Show, Robin of Sherwood and McPhail and Gadsby. Sunday nights featured Yes, Prime Minister and Miss Marple.

Showing at the cinema were The Killing Fields, Hannah and Her Sisters, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, My Beautiful Launderette, Top Gun, Big Trouble in Little China and Rocky 3 & 4.

A youthful-looking Howard Morrison was playing in Auckland Town Hall, and so was Irish flutist James Galway. But rugby ruled even stronger. In November 1986, the All Blacks thrashed France 59-6. And showing some things never change, the Christadelphians advertised “Christ’s personal return to Earth is imminent”.

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