50 years of ACC New Zealand: A legacy of care and innovation

ACC 50th Birthday image banner

On 1 April, we mark a significant milestone as we celebrate our 50th anniversary since being established in 1974. Our no-fault scheme was a radical idea then, and it remains so today.


Our purpose is improving lives every day. It’s why we we’ve been around for 50 years and why we’ll be here in the future. We’re committed to helping New Zealanders and their families to avoid injury and provide support when it occurs.

Our purpose is what drives us. It’s why our work matters. You’ll hear it in the stories our people tell, in the way they talk about what they do.

We’re extremely proud of what we do, but we’re prouder still of why we do it. We want people in New Zealand to have the best quality of life possible. It’s what our people are passionate about and how we make a difference every day.

A history of bold and brave ideas

New Zealand today is almost unrecognisable from what it was when ACC was founded in 1974. To remember what life was like before ACC, we must go back to 1967. 

Back then, workers were becoming increasingly frustrated. Their compensation payments weren’t enough to support them if they were injured and couldn’t work. Out of this rising tension came the makings of a bold and audacious idea. 

The Government of the day set up a Royal Commission to investigate and report on workers’ compensation. In 1967, the Commission produced what became known as The Woodhouse Report, named after its chairman, Sir Owen Woodhouse. 

The report attracted worldwide attention for exposing the shortcomings of the common law fault system. The system relied on accident victims being able to prove their injuries were caused by negligence, or a breach of a duty of care, owed to them by another party. 

Sir Owen proposed a change of emphasis from finding fault to looking at the needs of the accident victim. The proposed changes were described at the time as being “dramatic” and “revolutionary”. 

In 1972, the Accident Compensation Act was passed, providing compensation for personal injury by accident. This bold new no-fault scheme offered compensation to earners and victims of motor vehicle accidents. 

 

ACC’s first newspaper advertisement, 1974

 

The Accident Compensation Amendment Act 1973 provided a more comprehensive scheme, covering non-earners and abolishing the right to sue in a New Zealand court to recover damages for personal injury. 

Our no-fault scheme was a radical idea in 1974 and it remains so today. No other country has succeeded in introducing a scheme quite like it. 

Injury arising from accident demands an attack on three fronts. Most important is obviously prevention. Next in importance is the obligation to rehabilitate the injured. Thirdly, there is a duty to compensate them for their losses.
- Sir Owen Woodhouse

Where we are today

ACC helps people of all ages, from all walks of life, live as fully and safely as possible. This means funding programmes that help children stay safe around the home and keep motorcyclists safe on the road. It means helping rangatahi warm up before their sports matches and older people stay fit, healthy, and independent. 

But we know it’s impossible to eliminate injury completely. When someone has an accident, and needs to take time off work, we can support them financially; this way, they can recover knowing that their family is looked after. We can help with rehabilitation needs, until our clients are ready to return to work. Whatever the situation, we will find the best solution, providing the right care along the way. 

Throughout our 50-year history we’ve remained committed to caring for our customers when they’re hurt, or working to prevent injuries in the first place.

We’ve connected with New Zealanders in different ways, including printed brochures, newspaper and radio advertisements. Our TV ads are often adopted into pop culture (remember the Fruit-E bars?). Here are a few examples of how we’ve shown up over the years.

   
   

Follow us on Instagram as we share more from the archives in our Throwback Thursday series. 

ACC New Zealand on Instagram

Looking to the future

Our vision is to create a unique partnership with every New Zealander, improving their quality of life by minimising the incidence and impact of injury. We believe that everyone in New Zealand should have the freedom to live a full and independent life, secure in the knowledge that if injury occurs, we’ll be there. 

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in bringing ACC to New Zealanders for the past 50 years, from Sir Owen Woodhouse’s visionary leadership to our dedicated kaimahi (staff) helping to improve lives every day.

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