Julius Vogel becomes premier

8 April 1873

Julius Vogel, 1860s
Julius Vogel, 1860s (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-053949-F)

Julius Vogel was the dominant political figure of the 1870s, serving as colonial treasurer and premier on several occasions, and launching massive programmes of immigration and public works.

Born in London of Jewish–Dutch parentage, Vogel worked as a journalist and editor in Australia before settling in Dunedin in 1861. Elected to Parliament in 1863, he became Colonial Treasurer in William Fox’s government in 1869.

To revive a faltering economy, Vogel initiated a bold 10-year programme of public works and large-scale assisted immigration, funded by extensive borrowing on the London money market. The success of this policy depended on the rapid and cheap acquisition of Māori land by the Crown. Vogel and his supporters argued that Māori and settlers would be reconciled after the recent New Zealand Wars if Māori – and their land – were fully integrated into the European economy.

Vogel served as premier until July 1875 and for another seven-month period in 1876. His ambitious and revolutionary policies transformed the colony, whose non-Māori population nearly doubled between 1871 and 1881.