Story: Dutch

Page 4. The Dutch contribution

All images & media in this story

How others saw them

The 1950s Dutch migrants were the first foreigners many Kiwis had met. As white Europeans, it was their language and accent rather than their appearance that made them distinctive. The Dutch came to be seen as sensible and hard-working nation builders. Some of the first wave attracted criticism for working too hard, and were told to slow down in the workplace. The ‘industrious Dutchie’ soon became a national archetype, and qualities such as thrift and abruptness were seen as typical of the new arrivals.

A new approach to hospitality

By introducing new customs and foods, ideas and practices, the Dutch helped change the New Zealand way of life. Migrants like Suzy van der Kwast in Wellington broke new ground by setting up popular cafés where New Zealanders could taste good coffee and exotic food. In the mid-1950s, Auckland restaurateur Otto Groen challenged the conservative drinking laws of the day, which banned the European custom of drinking wine with meals in restaurants. His restaurant, The Gourmet, later became the first in the country to be granted a licence to serve liquor. Vogel’s bread, Van Camp chocolate and Verkerk smallgoods are among the flavours of Europe introduced by the Dutch.

Arts and design

Dutch immigrants have brought fresh and challenging ideas. Indonesian-born artist Theo Schoon occupies a significant place in New Zealand art for helping stimulate interest in jade carving, Māori rock drawings, and gourd carving. Frank Carpay was an innovative designer and decorator of ceramics at Crown Lynn Potteries. Ans Westra’s images, especially of Māori, cemented her reputation as one of our greatest photographers. Arriving as a child in the 1950s, Riemke Ensing went on to become an established poet. A distinctive Dutch contribution to design is evident in such commercial enterprises as Rembrandt Suits and Lockwood Homes.

The house that Jo and Jan built

That Kiwi institution, the Lockwood home, is a Dutch invention. Two migrants – Jo la Grouw and Johannes (Jan) van Loghem – came up with the innovative idea in 1951. The prototype house built in Rotorua was based on the old log-cabin technique of interlocking timber walls. Their spaciousness and strength soon made the houses popular with New Zealanders. Lockwood Homes became the country’s biggest house-building company, with sales in the tens of thousands both locally and as far away as Europe.


Dutch male immigrants have gained acceptance through sport, especially football. Middle-distance runner Dick Quax broke world records in the 1970s. Other important names in sport include cyclist Tino Tabak, rower Eric Verdonk, and controversial decathlete Simon Poelman. Dutch-born Yvonne Willering helped raise the profile of netball, first as a Silver Ferns player and later as the team’s coach. And former All Black prop Kees Meeuws has an unmistakably Dutch name.

Farming and horticulture

Friesian cows were an early Dutch contribution to the landscape, and migrants brought special expertise as dairy farmers. Growing tulips is another Dutch migrant speciality. Today New Zealand exports tulip bulbs to the Netherlands and around the world through a multi-million-dollar business based in Tapanui.

1980s onwards

The flow of migrants has not ceased, although the numbers have dropped and the reasons for travelling to the other side of the world are no longer economic ones. Later migrants have tended to be middle class, and to have left the prosperous Netherlands for ecological or lifestyle reasons. Between 1982 and 1998, an average of 528 Dutch people arrived each year.

The 2013 census recorded 19,815 Dutch-born people; the number identifying themselves as Dutch was 28,503. More than 100,000 New Zealanders are thought to have Dutch blood in their veins.

How to cite this page:

Redmer Yska, 'Dutch - The Dutch contribution', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 June 2024)

Story by Redmer Yska, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 May 2016