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Parliament's people

Page 9 – Biographies

Parliamentary biographies

The following Dictionary of New Zealand biography essays are available online at


Algie, Ronald Macmillan 1888–1978
Professor of law, National MP 1943–66, Speaker of House of Representatives 1961–6; influential in constitutional and procedural matters

Arthur, Basil Malcolm 1928–1985
Labourer, trade unionist, Labour MP 1962–85, Speaker of House of Representatives 1984–5

Barnard, William Edward 1886–1958
Lawyer, Labour MP 1928–43, Speaker of House of Representatives 1936–43

Bell, Francis Dillon 1822–1898
Public administrator, run holder, MP 1855–6, 1859–75, Member of Legislative Council 1854–6, 1877–80, Speaker of House of Representatives 1871–5

Clifford, Charles 1813–1893
Pastoralist, businessman, MP 1853–60, first Speaker of House of Representatives 1854–60

Fitzherbert, William 1810–1891
Merchant, provincial superintendent, MP 1855–8, 1858–79, Speaker of House of Representatives 1876–9 and of Legislative Council 1879–87

Macfarlane, Robert Mafeking 1900–1981
Driver, trade unionist, Labour MP 1939–69, Speaker of House of Representatives 1957–60

Monro, David 1813–1877
Doctor, MP 1853–5, 1858–71, 1872–3, Speaker of House of Representatives 1861–70; developed procedures for the House

Oram, Matthew Henry 1885–1969
Lawyer, aviation promoter, National MP 1943–57, Speaker of House of Representatives 1950–7

O'Rorke, George Maurice 1830–1916
Lawyer, educationalist, MP 1861–90, 1893–1902, Member of Legislative Council 1904–16, Speaker of House of Representatives 1879–90, 1894–1902; exercised firm control and brought Speaker's position into modern, impartial role

Statham, Charles Ernest 1875–1946
Lawyer, MP 1911–35, first New Zealand-born, longstanding Speaker of House of Representatives 1923–35

Selected MPs

Carleton, Hugh Francis 1810–1890
Trader, newspaper editor, educationalist, writer, MP 1853–70; long-standing Chairman of Committees and known as 'Father of the House' as first member elected in 1853

Domett, Alfred 1811–1887
Journalist, public servant, writer, MP 1855–66, premier 1862–3 and promoter of the Parliamentary Library

Fox, William 1812?–1893
Explorer, painter, social reformer, MP 1855–65, 1868–75, 1876–9, 1880–1, premier 1856, 1861–2, 1869–72, 1873; Opposition politician par excellence and foil for Edward Stafford

Fraser, Peter 1884–1950
Labourer, trade unionist, journalist, Labour MP 1918–50, prime minister 1940–9 and eminent parliamentarian

Grey, George 1812–1898
Soldier, explorer, governor, scholar, MP 1875–6, 1876–9, 1881–90, 1891–5, premier 1877–9; critical to the emergence of representative government

Holyoake, Keith Jacka 1904–1983
Farmer, orchardist, National MP 1932–8, 1943–77, prime minister, 1957, 1960–72, Governor-General 1977–80

Lee, John Alfred Alexander 1891–1982
Criminal, swagger, soldier, hotel-keeper, writer, bookseller, charismatic MP 1922–8, 1931–43; broke with the Labour Party

McKenzie, John 1839–1901
Farmer, political reformer, Liberal MP 1881–1900

Seddon, Richard John 1845–1906
MP 1879–1906, premier 1893–1906; noted for asserting power of executive

Sewell, Henry 1807–1879
Lawyer, administrator, MP 1853–6, 1860, 1865–6, Member of Legislative Council 1861–5, 1870–3, premier 1856; produced fascinating record of the early sessions of Parliament

Sheehan, John 1844–1885
Lawyer, MP 1872–84, 1885; first New Zealand-born Pākehā MP who experienced a meteoric rise and equally rapid fall

Sidey, Thomas Kay 1863–1933
Lawyer, Liberal MP 1901–28, Member Legislative Council 1928–33; noted for his Private Members' bills

Stafford, Edward William 1819–1901
Run holder, provincial superintendent, sportsman, MP 1855–68, 1868–78, pragmatic politician and successful premier 1856–61, 1865–9, 1872

Wakefield, Edward Gibbon 1796–1862
Political theorist, colonial promoter, MP 1853–5 and key participant in the events of the first session of Parliament, 1854

Maori MPs

Carroll, James 1857–1926
Ngati Kahungunu; farm worker, interpreter, Liberal MP 1887–1919; key figure in bridging Maori and Pakeha political worlds

Ngata, Apirana Turupa 1874–1950
Ngati Porou leader, land reformer, scholar, Liberal/United/National MP 1905–43; noted member of the Young Maori Party

Pomare, Maui Wiremu Piti Naera 1875/1876?–1930
Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Toa; medical officer, Maori health reformer, Reform and Young Maori Party MP 1911–30

Te Rangi Paetahi, Mete Kingi ?–1883
Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi leader, soldier, assessor, farmer, one of the first four Maori MPs, 1868–70

Tirikatene, Eruera Tihema Te Aika 1895–1967
Ngai Tahu; farmer, marine engineer, Ratana leader, Ratana/Labour MP 1932–67

Women MPs

Howard, Mabel Bowden 1894–1972
Trade unionist, community worker, notable and eccentric Labour MP 1943–69

McCombs, Elizabeth Reid 1873–1935
Socialist, social worker, first woman MP 1933–5, elected for Labour

Ratana, Iriaka Matiu 1905–1981
Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi; entertainer, farmer, Ratana leader, first Maori female MP 1949–69, elected for Labour

Ross, Grace Hilda Cuthberta 1883–1959
Music teacher, welfare worker, community leader, National female MP 1945–59

Parliamentary Librarians

Scholefield, Guy Hardy 1877–1963
Parliamentary librarian 1926–48, historian, archivist, compiler of Dictionary of New Zealand biography (1940)

Other biographical links

Parliament's site has biographies of former prime ministers.

How to cite this page

Biographies, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated