What's new

Latest updates from Te Ara, Te Tai and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Last updated March 2022. 

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

New entries and updates for Te Ara, the complete guide to New Zealand’s peoples, environment, history, culture and society, include:


We have just updated our Olympic and Commonwealth Games story to take account of the record-breaking feats of our athletes in the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020 (held in 2021), and the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. Likewise our Paralympics page has been updated to reflect the achievements of our Paralympians in Toyko and Beijing.

Gender Diversity

We were pleased to have updated the Gender Diversity story in 2021. The revision, by Johanna Schmidt with the assistance of Gender Minorities Aotearoa, was mindful of significant shifts in language among Aotearoa’s gender-diverse communities since the story was written in 2011.  We have also added many new resources to better reflect the diverse communities this story discusses. 

Coal and Coal Mining

The Coal and coal mining story was recently update in light of the recent developments in coal mining in New Zealand, and new resources were added. 


Covid-19 has changed our lives in so many ways.  We are gradually adding resources to Te Ara to take account of its impact. There are obvious places where Covid updates were needed, such as our Epidemics and Public Health pages, but we’ve been gradually adding mention of it in less obvious places such as our cruise ships page, our New Zealand Sign Language page, our history of Matatini (the long-running national kapa haka competitions) page and our skiing page. No doubt we will be adding references to Covid to reflect the pandemic’s influence on our lives for years to come. 

New Zealand Sign language

In September 2020, we launched our new Te Ara page, New Zealand Sign Language covering the history of the language, signing in deaf education, variation in signs across regions and time, the role of interpreters, and digital technology. This is the first Te Ara entry to be accompanied by video of sign language, interpreting the story. The entry was written for us by Rachel McKee and translated into sign by Sonia Pivac.

Climate Change

In July 2020, we launched our updated entry about Climate Change, written for us by scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Our understanding of the science of climate change is changing all the time, so it was great to have had this entry updated.

Flash Project

In 2020 we upgraded about 350 Adobe Flash resources with alternatives that are more accessible and responsive (so will work on mobile devices as well as desktops). Flash is no longer supported by modern browsers. We have been updating interactive diagrams, graphs, maps, video, audio and other resources.

Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories / Te Tai Ngā Kōrero Whakatau O Te Tiriti

Recent stories (in both Te Reo and English) added to our digital storytelling programme that explores Treaty settlements and their enduring impact, Te Tai Treaty Settlement Stories, include:

Te Reo O Te Mana Māori - including biographies and timeline

Our newest Treaty Settlement story Te Mana o te Reo Māori was published online in September 2020, in partnership with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission). It includes a timeline of events, and 24 biographies of key people and organisations. See our press release here. All content is available in both English and te reo Māori.

Waikato–Tainui Treaty Settlement Story

The story of the Waikato-Tainui Treaty process and its enduring impact on the community was launched in September 2020, the 25th anniversary of settlement. See our press release here.

Ngati Porou

In February 2020, Ngati Porou shared their journey towards Te Tiriti settlement, including an educational resource and a documentary Moko Pu o Rongo.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography / Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau

New additions to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography  the life stories for over 3,000 people who shaped our culture and history  include:

March 2022 update: Architects and Designers

Fourteen new entries featuring legendary Kiwi architects, industrial and fashion designers, and inventors have been added to Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB).  This special round, focussing particularly on those working in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, was guest edited by Manatū Taonga senior historian Elizabeth Cox, an architectural historian, and demonstrates the variety of New Zealand’s design history in these decades. 

  • Safua Akeli Amaama, Te Papa's Head of History and Pacific Cultures, has written about Joseph Churchward, a Samoan-born graphic designer whose internationally renowned typeface graced record covers, billboards, newspapers and popular literature during his lifetime and beyond.
  • Noted design historian Douglas Lloyd Jenkins has written two essays. Avis Higgs was a leading figure in wartime textile design in Australia who became a New Zealand artist and designer of note upon her return to her native Wellington, while wallpaper designer, artist and interior designer William Mason made his own wallpapers by hand.
  • Otago University’s fashion design historian Natalie Smith has written on Kura Ensor (Waikato Tainui), a fashion entrepreneur from Auckland, who was part of a renaissance in Māori-influenced design during the 1970s.
  • Gareth Phipps, Manatū Taonga digital editor, wrote on Colin Murdoch, a Timaru-based inventor who revolutionised safety, convenience and cost-effectiveness of medical treatments for both humans and animals, including reusable syringes and tranquiliser guns. 
  • University of Canterbury architectural historian Ian Lochhead wrote on Peter Beaven, one of the most prominent figures in New Zealand architecture, both as the designer of instantly recognisable buildings and as a commentator on architecture and urban design, particularly in Christchurch.
  • Julia Gatley, architectural historian at the University of Auckland and author of many books about New Zealand architecture, has written about two important 20th century architects. Bill Wilson was the energy behind the Auckland architectural collective The Group, and Wellingtonian Sir Ian Athfield, who, with his firm Athfield Architects, designed some of New Zealand’s most distinctive buildings. 
  • Manatū Taonga historian Kate Jordan wrote about Nelson potters and businesspeople Jack and Peggy Laird, who founded and operated the innovative Waimea Pottery craft studio, a juggernaut of New Zealand pottery during the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Michael Smythe has also contributed two essays. Ergonomist James Coe  revolutionised the teaching of design in New Zealand, while pioneer industrial designer Gifford Jackson designed a wide range of well-known domestic, office, agricultural, transport, medical and maritime products.
  • Peter Richardson wrote about Fergus Sheppard, the Government Architect who led the Modernist architectural transformation of the government’s building programme in New Zealand in the 1960s.
  • Jacqueline Margetts and Rod Barnett, both landscape architecture educators, wrote about their friend Ted Smyth, a landscape architect of international repute who helped raise the profile of New Zealand garden design to the same level as architecture.
  • Landscape architect Garth Falconer has written about Harry Turbott, architect and landscape architect who pioneered an environmentally focused design practice in New Zealand in the latter half of the twentieth century. 

The captivating stories are supported by photographs and videos of the subjects and their work.

November 2021 update: Architects and Designers

A completely revised version of the entry on Leo and Vivian Walsh had been added to Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau Dictionary of New Zealand Biography:

See previous Dictionary of New Zealand Biography / Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau notices