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The orthodox interpretation of trade union development in New Zealand (and Australia) holds that the unique antipodal systems of compulsory arbitration produced dependent union movements. This article assesses the structure and character of New Zealand unions under state intervention from three vastly different regimes. The paper examines how trade unions developed during the long era of compulsory arbitration from 1894-1991. It then considers the fate of trade unions during the hostile employment contracts era of the 1990s. The paper finally considers the recent fortunes of unions since union protections were reintroduced under the Employment Relations Act 2000. Although the structure of the union movement has changed across the three regimes, the paper finds that the union movement has retained its traditional character despite the introduction of renewal initiatives and despite the marked differences in protections afforded unions under these regimes of state intervention.