Edward Jerningham Wakefield, born in 1820, was the only son of New Zealand Company founder Edward Gibbon Wakefield. The young Wakefield’s life was inevitably bound up in his father’s colonial and political ventures. He acted as clerk and secretary, travelling with his father to Canada in 1838, and then with his uncle Colonel William Wakefield to New Zealand, where he arrived on the Tory in August 1839. As agent and explorer for the New Zealand Company, he was responsible for its land purchasing activities in Whanganui in 1840.
Prime Minister: 6 Sept 1974–12 Dec 1975 Age on becoming PM: 46 Electorate: Tasman Political party: Labour
Norman Kirk’s death in office brought Bill Rowling to the prime ministership unexpectedly in August 1974. A member of an oldTasmanBay farming family, and a teacher by training, he had been finance minister since 1972.
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1813, Isaac Featherston spent his early life studying medicine in Edinburgh and working as a physician in Italy and across Europe.
Suffering from persistent ill health and a weak constitution, he eventually travelled further afield in search of a more suitable climate. Featherston made his passage to New Zealand as surgeon superintendent aboard the Olympus, a ship owned by the New Zealand Company, through which he had purchased land in the new settlement of Wellington.
Prime Minister: 13 Dec 1949–20 Sept 1957 Age on becoming PM: 56 Electorate: Fendalton Political party: National
The Hollands were a Canterbury political dynasty. Sid’s father, Henry, a mayor of Christchurch, entered Parliament in 1925. Son Eric followed Sid into the House.
After war service, Sid Holland founded a manufacturing company with his brother. Active in business organisations, he flirted with the extreme right before joining National and entering Parliament in 1935.
A charismatic ex-soldier, orator and propagandist, John A. Lee was a dynamic figure in the Labour Party from the 1920s until 1940, when he was expelled for attacking the leadership of M.J. Savage. Lee had a parallel career as a writer and later bookseller. His best-known novel, the largely autobiographical Children of the poor (1934), was described as a ‘sensational book on vice, poverty, misery’.
Prime Minister: 26 Jul 1984–8 Aug 1989 Age on becoming PM: 41 Electorate: Mangere Political party: Labour
Seven years and one stomach-stapling operation after entering Parliament in 1977, David Lange became PM a month before his 42nd birthday. The baby-boomers had ousted Robert Muldoon’s RSA generation and Lange’s youthful Cabinet ‘heaved and bubbled like a Rotorua mud pool with new ideas, some equally volcanic.’
This web feature was written by John E. Martin and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team.LinksParliamentary elections and parties (Te Ara)BooksMartin, John E. The House: New Zealand's House of Representatives 1854–2004, Dunmore Press, 2004
A clever theorist of mercurial character, Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) masterminded the large-scale British settlement of New Zealand. (He also played significant roles in the settlement of South Australia and Canada.)