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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



A brief survey of the persons who have held viceregal office in New Zealand shows that our Governors can be classified into certain relatively well-defined groups. Those who held office in the first period, from Gipps to Gore Browne, were military or naval officers who had been detached from active service to assist the Colonial Office, New Zealand being their first or early charge. The Governors of the second period — from Sir George Grey (second term) to Sir W. F. D. Jervois – were already well-experienced colonial administrators by the time they arrived in New Zealand, and most of them became Governors of other colonies after they left. All the Governors of this period were picked men, and two of them — Robinson and Gordon – were regarded as being among the most competent of Britain's colonial administrators. As a group these Governors came into prominence during the second half of the nineteenth century. Their rise was due, principally, to the provision which made their retirement pensions, paid by the Imperial Government, dependent upon the size or class of salary attaching to their final vice-regal position. Because there were such wide divergencies between payments made by the various colonies, the Colonial Office was able to institute a system of viceregal promotions within the Empire which enabled the Service to retain an experienced Governor's services for many years. When, after Jervois's term, the New Zealand Government reduced the Governor's salary and allowances, the Colonial Office could no longer send such men to this country, Lord Onslow, who came to New Zealand as our first “cheap Governor”, accepted his appointment on the clear understanding that he would be expected to spend large sums from his own purse to keep up the dignity of his office. This proved an expensive undertaking, and one of the immediate effects was to reduce the Governor's term of office in New Zealand from six to four years. After Lord Onslow's appointment, Lord Liverpool was the first Governor to serve his full term. The Governors of this period, all extremely wealthy men, were members of the House of Lords with no previous experience of vice-regal office.

With the gradual evolution of Dominion status, and the corresponding lessening of Imperial control over the New Zealand Government, greater emphasis came to be placed on the Governor-General as the Monarch's personal representative. This necessitated a further change in the type of person selected. Since Lord Freyberg, New Zealand Governors are drawn from men who have distinguished themselves either in the British political world or in the armed forces. Nowadays it is most unusual for a Governor-General to have had prior vice-regal service.

Governors of New Zealand
Assumed Office Retired
1. Sir George Gipps 30 Jan 1840 3 Jan 1841
Captain William Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor 30 Jan 1840 3 Jan 1841
2. Captain William Hobson 3 Jan 1841 *10 Sep 1842
Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland, Administrator 10 Sep 1842 26 Dec 1843
3. Captain Robert FitzRoy 26 Dec 1843 17 Nov 1845
4. Sir George Grey 18 Nov 1845 31 Dec 1853
Lieutenant-Colonel R. H. Wynyard, Administrator 3 Jan 1854 6 Sep 1855
5. Colonel Thomas Gore Browne 6 Sep 1855 2 Oct 1861
Sir George Grey, Administrator 3 Oct 1861 3 Dec 1861
6. Sir George Grey 4 Dec 1861 5 Feb 1868
7. Sir George Bowen 5 Feb 1868 19 Mar 1873
8. Sir James Fergusson 14 Jun 1873 3 Dec 1874
Lord Normanby, Administrator 3 Dec 1874 8 Jan 1875
9. Lord Normanby 9 Jan 1875 21 Feb 1879
Sir Hercules Robinson, Administrator 27 Mar 1879 16 Apr 1879
10. Sir Hercules Robinson 17 Apr 1879 8 Sep 1880
11. Sir Arthur Gordon 29 Nov 1880 23 Jun 1882
12. Sir William Jervois 20 Jan 1883 22 Mar 1889
13. Lord Onslow 2 May 1889 24 Feb 1892
14. Lord Glasgow 7 Jun 1892 6 Feb 1897
15. Lord Ranfurly 10 Aug 1897 19 Jun 1904
16. Lord Plunket 20 Jun 1904 8 Jun 1910
17. Lord Islington 22 Jun 1910 2 Dec 1912
18. Lord Liverpool 19 Dec 1912 27 Jun 1917

*Died in office

Governors-General of New Zealand
Assumed Office Retired
1. Lord Liverpool 28 Jun 1917 7 July 1920
2. Lord Jellicoe 27 Sep 1920 26 Nov 1924
3. Sir Charles Fergusson 13 Dec 1924 8 Feb 1930
4. Lord Bledisloe 19 Mar 1930 15 Mar 1935
5. Lord Galway 12 Apr 1935 3 Feb 1941
6. Sir Cyril Newall 22 Feb 1941 19 Apr 1946
7. Sir Bernard Freyberg 17 Jun 1946 15 Aug 1952
8. Sir Willoughby Norrie 2 Dec 1952 25 Jul 1957
9. Lord Cobham 5 Sep 1957 13 Sep 1962
10. Sir Bernard Fergusson 9 Nov 1962 ..

For biographical details see separate entries: e.g., Gipps, Sir George; Freyberg, Sir Bernard, etc.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.