Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

View the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography here.

Find out about our latest biographies here.

Find out about our recent biographies here.

What is the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB)?

The DNZB is the foremost reference work on the lives of people who shaped this country’s history and culture from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. It includes more than 3000 biographies, written by specialists and produced to a high standard by a team of researchers and editors. The DNZB’s 500 biographies on Māori subjects are also available in te reo Māori, which – together with the te reo sections of Te Ara – forms the largest Māori-language publishing programme yet undertaken.

The DNZB was originally published in five print volumes between 1990 and 2000, covering the lives of people who came to prominence before 1960 and died before 1998. All the biographies were released on a stand-alone website in 2001, and relaunched as part of Te Ara in 2010. Since that time the Dictionary has been solely digital. Fifteen new biographies were launched in 2010–11, and a new batch of 25 biographies of women were published in 2018 to celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage. New batches of entries have been published twice yearly since 2019. There are no current plans to produce further print volumes of the Dictionary, or to reprint the five original volumes.

How are people selected for inclusion?

The DNZB comprises people who have made a significant mark on New Zealand history across all fields of endeavour. It also includes biographies of people selected for their representativeness, and to help provide a balance of individuals from across society. Living people are not eligible for inclusion, though they can be nominated for future consideration.

Selections are made by a selection committee which meets annually, drawing on the advice of subject experts. 

Can I nominate someone for inclusion?

We welcome public nominations for the DNZB, though we cannot promise that any nomination will be accepted. Our focus is on deceased people who came to prominence after 1960, and people who came to prominence earlier but died after 1998 (the cut-off date for the original print publication series). Only in rare cases will we commission a biography outside those parameters.

A nomination form can be downloaded from here.

Should I use the print or online version?

DNZB entries are periodically updated and corrected in their digital form, which makes the website versions the definitive versions. Biographies published since 2000 are not included in the print volumes. We recommend use of the digital versions for all reference and citation purposes.

Can I contribute an image?

We endeavour to include at least one image with every DNZB entry. Please contact us here if you have an image to contribute.

How do I report an error?

All DNZB entries went through a rigorous checking process, but mistakes do occasionally occur. We are also aware that new information may have come to light since a biography was written. We are always grateful to have significant errors or omissions drawn to our attention. Please contact us here.

Can I suggest additional material for an entry’s ‘Links and sources’ page?

We are always pleased to add references to new books, articles, chapters, theses and other material to ‘Links and sources’ pages, and to link to resources available online. Please submit your suggestions here.

Can I republish entries or images?

The texts of all DNZB entries are Crown Copyright, and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand License. Commercial reuse may be allowed on request. All non-text content is subject to specific conditions. The Chief Historian’s permission is required for any republication.

Researchers should apply directly to public institutions to republish images from their collections. For images held in private ownership, the owner must provide permission before we can release a high-resolution version to researchers. Contact us here.

Why are some entries missing macrons and inline links?

The English-language versions of the older DNZB entries were originally published without macrons on Māori words. We are gradually adding these as time and resources permit, along with inline links to other DNZB and Te Ara content.

What other biographies are available on Te Ara and NZHistory?

G.H. Scholefield's A dictionary of New Zealand biography (1940), a two-volume centennial history publication including biographies of many who people do not appear in the DNZB, is available in pdf format on NZHistory (volume one, volume two). Biographies can also be found in A. H. McLintock's Encyclopaedia of New Zealand (1966), which forms part of Te Ara, and in the biographies section of NZHistory.

Who produces the DNZB?

The DNZB is managed and updated by the Research & Publishing Group at Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage in Wellington, New Zealand. The team responsible includes:

Tim Shoebridge (general editor), David Green (content editor), Elizabeth Cox (senior historian), Jamie Mackay (production lead), Gareth Phipps (production editor), Dean Johnston (designer) and Katie Cheer (designer). Additional editorial and technical support is provided by members of the Heritage Content Team (led by Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian) and the Production Team (led by Julia Vodanovich, Production Manager). The DNZB selection committee consists of Neill Atkinson, Dame Claudia Orange, Tim Shoebridge and Nancy Swarbrick, assisted by subject experts. Elizabeth Cox guest-edited the second 2021 publication round, and Sarah Burgess the first 2022 round.

Past general editors: W.H. Oliver (1983–1990), Dame Claudia Orange (1990–2003), and Jock Phillips (as general editor of Te Ara, 2003–14).