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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.




Runholder and politician.

Robert Pharazyn was born on 31 August 1833 in London, the eldest son of Charles Johnson Pharazyn and his second wife, Mary Catherine, née Buckland. He came to New Zealand with his parents, arriving at Wellington on 24 May 1841, and was educated at St. John's College, Auckland. In the 1850s he acquired a portion of the Te Aute Block, Hawke's Bay, and was a successful sheep farmer for several years. He was a member of the Hawke's Bay Settlers' Association, campaigning actively in favour of the district's separation from Wellington Province, and was also warden of the Waipukurau Highways Board (1858). In 1863 he sold his Hawke's Bay property to Robert Stokes and for the next few years travelled widely in Europe. He returned to New Zealand shortly before Titokowaru's West Coast Campaign and purchased 5,000 acres of the Waitotara Block. From 1865 until 1876 he represented Wellington City and, latterly, the Waitotara – Kai Iwi constituencies on the Provincial Council and acted as Provincial Secretary for a short period in 1875–76. In the early 1860s he wrote a number of cogent newspaper articles in favour of the control of native affairs being transferred to the New Zealand Government, and represented Rangitikei in Parliament during Fox's absence abroad (1865–66). Pharazyn served as mayor of Wanganui for a few months in 1874 and was also chairman of the hospital board and of the Wanganui-Castlecliff Railway Co. In the following year he was elected to the Wellington City Council and unsuccessfully contested the Wanganui parliamentary constituency against Bryce. On 15 May 1885, following his father's retirement, Pharazyn was called to the Legislative Council. He soon became recognised as one of the most valuable members in the House, taking a prominent part in the debates and committee work. In 1894 he was a member of the Council's Banking Committee and, for many years, was chairman of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Library.

Although a keen debater and an excellent conversationalist, Pharazyn was of a studious disposition and preferred the society of books to the uncertainties of political life. He was a facile writer, but his only publication, apart from newspaper articles, was a brief history of the New Zealand Society – a short-lived forerunner of the Royal Society of New Zealand. On 29 March 1871, at St. Paul's Church, Wellington, Pharazyn married Emily Whitbread Lomax. He died at Hobson Street, Wellington, on 19 July 1896.

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

  • Wanganui, Chapple, L. J. B., and Veitch, H. C. (1939)
  • Evening Post, 20 Jul 1896 (Obit)
  • New Zealand Times, 20 Jul 1896 (Obit).


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