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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.


HEALE, Theophilus


Surveyor and Judge of the Native Land Court.

Theophilus Heale was born in London in 1816, the son of a sugar broker. He received a very good education and went to sea. On 22 January 1840 he arrived at Wellington, in command of the Aurora, bringing the first settlers of the New Zealand Company. In May 1840 the ship became a total loss at Kaipara Harbour, where Heale had gone to collect spars. He spent some time travelling in Northland and, towards the end of the year, before leaving for England, he entered a partnership with Dudley Sinclair. In April 1841, at the first sale of Auckland town sections, Sinclair purchased several for the partnership. While in England Heale published (1842) New Zealand and the New Zealand Company, in which he levelled some pertinent criticisms against the Company's arrangements for the reception of the settlers. He also entered into negotiations, on behalf of the Manukau Land Company, with a Scottish organisation which was prepared to establish the township of Cornwallis on Manukau Harbour. Heale returned to New Zealand bringing with him a steam sawmill, which he erected at Cornwallis. Unfortunately, the settlement project failed and the partnership dissolved. In 1843 Heale paid another visit to England, where he was questioned before the House of Commons Select Committee on New Zealand. From March to December 1845 he served on FitzRoy's Legislative Council. During the same year, in association with Whitaker, he purchased lands at Matakana Harbour, at Waiheke Island and a mining concession at Kawau. The latter was successfully contested before the Privy Council by the Aberdeen Company.

From 1850 to 1855 Heale's movements are obscure but between 1855 and 1860, in partnership with Whitaker, he engaged in copper mining on Great Barrier Island. He also surveyed Whitaker's and Du Moulin's land claims on the island. On 25 January 1860 Heale was returned to the House of Representatives by Auckland Suburbs but was defeated for the Parnell seat later in the year. In September 1861 he became Chief Government Surveyor for the new Province of Southland and, shortly after his arrival at Invercargill, Menzies gave him the additional post of Provincial Engineer. After the Stewart's Island Annexation Act of 1863 was passed, Heale visited the island and reported on its natural resources and potential for systematic colonisation. For a short time in May 1864 he acted as Deputy Superintendent of Southland. In July 1864 he left the province, intending to be absent for a year. During the Southland political upheaval in December 1864, Heale was elected – apparently in absentia – Superintendent of the Province. The election was declared invalid and Heale, who was then fulfilling a survey contract in the Tauranga district, did not return to Invercargill again. Early in 1866 he was defeated by one vote for the Invercargill seat in the House of Representatives. From 1867 until 1876 Heale was Inspector of Native Land Surveys for the colony and Chief Surveyor for Auckland Province, at the same time acting as Paymaster for Surveys. In 1871 he published Principles and Practice of Surveying – a book that shows Heale to have been a most competent mathematician. On 30 April 1877 he was appointed Judge of the Native Land Court, a post for which his knowledge of the Maori language and customs made him eminently suited. He retired in 1880 and visited England, but was reappointed to the Court on 18 April 1882. In 1883 he retired once more and returned to England permanently. Heale died at Orpington, Kent, on 19 May 1885.

In his day Theophilus Heale was noted for the thoroughness of his survey work. S. P. Smith, who succeeded him as Chief Surveyor, considered him to be “the most scientific surveyor in the country”.

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

  • Cowan Papers, 79 (MSS.), Turnbull Library
  • O.L.C. 1267, 1288 (MSS.), National Archives
  • Rakiura – a History of Stewart Island, New Zealand, Howard, B. (1940).


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