Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

View the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography here.

Find out about our latest biographies here.

What is the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography?

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 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 Dictionary’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 Dictionary 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 a solely digital product. 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. From 2019 onwards new batches of entries are published in May and October each year. 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 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 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 New Zealand society. Living people are not eligible for inclusion.

Final decisions about inclusion in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography are made by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Chief Historian.

Can I nominate someone for inclusion?

We welcome public nominations for the Dictionary, 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?

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 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 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entry. Please contact us here if you have an image to contribute.

How do I report an error?

All Dictionary of New Zealand Biography 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 republish entries or images?

The texts of all Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entries are Crown Copyright, and are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/nz/deed.en). 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.