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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.


CUTTEN, William Henry


Politician and newspaper proprietor.

William Henry Cutten was born on 10 April 1822 at London, the son of Charles Cutten and Rebecca, née Davis. He studied law for three years and was afterwards employed in the office of the English Commissioner for Bankruptcy. When, however, he became interested in the Free Church settlement scheme, he decided to emigrate to Otago. On 23 March 1848 Cutten arrived at Port Chalmers in the John Wickliffe and commenced business in Dunedin as a merchant and auctioneer. Almost from the first he occupied positions which kept him in the public eye. In 1849 he was appointed local immigration agent for the New Zealand Company; and, following the demise of the Otago News in December 1850, Cutten was one of the group who launched the Otago Witness in February 1851. Shortly afterwards he became editor and, eventually, sole owner of the paper. In September 1853 he was elected to the first Provincial Council and, for several months in 1854, served on Cargill's executive. He was returned to the first House of Representatives in 1853, but resigned two years later because of the difficulty of attending sessions at Auckland. About this time he ran counter to Cargill, his father-in-law, over whether Scottish immigrants should be preferred to English, and Cutten brought the whole force of the Otago Witness against the Superintendent. Cutten and Hyde Harris also found themselves opposed to the small Free Church coterie with whom Cargill surrounded himself and they denounced this “jobbery” to such effect that the Superintendent was obliged to dismiss Macandrew and bring Cutten back on to the executive. In 1861 when the opening of the Otago goldfields made it necessary that there should be a daily paper in the province, Cutten and his associates founded the Otago Daily Times and engaged Vogel and B. L. Farjeon to handle the editorial and printing sides of the venture. Concurrently with his membership of the Provincial Council, Cutten was the General Government's Commissioner of Crown Lands in Otago. In 1863, when the Provincial Council resolved to debar members from holding office under the General Government, he resigned his seat and continued as Commissioner until 1867. On 13 March 1871 he was again elected to the Provincial Council and served on Donald Reid's executive (1871–72). He introduced resolutions in the Council to provide for Otago settlers to purchase their land by deferred payments. He thus anticipated the liberal land measures of Rolleston. Cutten retired from the Council in 1873 and visited England where he remained for the next two years. In July 1878 he succeeded Reid as member of Parliament for Taieri and remained in Parliament until the collapse of the Grey administration in 1879. Cutten contested the Peninsula seat unsuccessfully in November 1881.

On 14 May 1850, in Dunedin, Cutten married Christiana Dorothea, daughter of Captain Cargill. He died at Andersons Bay on 30 June 1883 and was survived by his widow, seven sons, and four daughters.

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

  • The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Otago Daily Times, 2 Jul 1883 (Obit)
  • The Morning Herald (Dunedin), 2 Jul 1883 (Obit).


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