Keith Holyoake

The Right Honourable
Sir Keith Holyoake

b&w portrait photo of a man in his mid fifties

Keith Holyoake in 1960
13th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
26 October 1977  25 October 1980
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Denis Blundell
Succeeded by Sir David Beattie
26th Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
12 December 1960  7 February 1972
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Charles Lyttelton
Bernard Fergusson
Arthur Porritt
Deputy Jack Marshall
Preceded by Walter Nash
Succeeded by Jack Marshall
In office
20 September 1957  12 December 1957
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Charles Lyttelton
Deputy Jack Marshall
Preceded by Sidney Holland
Succeeded by Walter Nash
1st Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
13 November 1954  20 September 1957
Prime Minister Sidney Holland
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Jack Marshall
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Motueka
In office
Preceded by George Black
Succeeded by Jerry Skinner
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Pahiatua
In office
Succeeded by John Falloon
Personal details
Born (1904-02-11)11 February 1904
Pahiatua, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
Died 8 December 1983(1983-12-08) (aged 79)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political party Reform
Spouse(s) Norma Janet Ingram (m. 1934–1983; his death)
Relations Ken Comber (son-in-law)
Children 5
Religion Presbyterian

Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake KG GCMG CH QSO KStJ (11 February 1904 – 8 December 1983) was the 26th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving for a brief period in 1957 and then from 1960 to 1972, and also the 13th Governor-General of New Zealand, serving from 1977 to 1980. He is the only person to have held both positions.[1]

A member of the National Party, Holyoake is to date the third longest serving New Zealand Prime Minister (just under 12 years), surpassed only by Richard Seddon's 13 years and William Massey's close to 13 years; he was also the first to be born in the 20th century.[2] He was known for his diplomatic style and "plummy" voice. He was also fondly (or mockingly) known as Kiwi Keith, a name given to him in childhood to distinguish him from an Australian child with the same name.[2]

Early life

Keith Holyoake in 1933

Holyoake was born at Mangamutu,[2] a short distance from Pahiatua, a town in New Zealand's Wairarapa region, the son of Henry Victor Holyoake and Esther Eves.[3] Holyoake's great-grandparents, Richard and Eliza Holyoake, settled at Riwaka near Motueka in 1843, and his maternal great-grandparents, William and Sarah Eves, arrived in Nelson in 1842.[4] Relatives of the 19th-century secularist George Holyoake,[5] the Holyoakes ran a small general store at Mangamutu, and then lived for a time in both Hastings and Tauranga, before settling on the family farm at Riwaka, following the death of Holyoake's grandfather in 1913.[3]

At age 12, having left school after his father's death, Holyoake worked on the family hop and tobacco farm in Riwaka. His mother had trained as a school teacher, and continued his education at home. After taking over the management of the farm, he became involved in various local farming associations, something that increased his interest in politics.[3]

Early political career

The Reform Party, which had strong rural support, selected Holyoake as its candidate for the Motueka seat in the 1931 election. The incumbent MP, George Black, held the seat, but died the following year. Holyoake was the Reform Party's candidate in the resulting by-election in 1932, and was successful. He became the youngest Member of Parliament at the time, at the age of 28.[2] In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[6]

In the 1935 election, Holyoake retained his seat under the motto "Follow England and Vote Holyoake"[2] despite a massive swing against the Reform-United coalition. In the aftermath of this election, he played a key role in transforming the coalition into the modern National Party. He very quickly gained considerable respect from his colleagues, and was regarded as a rising star in the new party. The 1937 electoral redistribution was unfavourable for him and when the boundary changes applied at the 1938 election, Holyoake lost his seat to a rising star of the governing Labour Party, Gerry Skinner.[7] Holyoake had been discussed as a possible successor to the party's conscientious but lack-lustre leader, Adam Hamilton, but without being an MP, this was no longer considered an option.[8]

In 1943 he returned to Parliament as MP for Pahiatua, having been lined up by National for that nomination. In 1946, he became the party's Deputy Leader.

Cabinet minister

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
19321935 24th Motueka Reform
19351936 25th Motueka Reform
19361938 Changed allegiance to: National
19431946 27th Pahiatua National
19461949 28th Pahiatua National
19491951 29th Pahiatua National
19511954 30th Pahiatua National
19541957 31st Pahiatua National
19571960 32nd Pahiatua National
19601963 33rd Pahiatua National
19631966 34th Pahiatua National
19661969 35th Pahiatua National
19691972 36th Pahiatua National
19721975 37th Pahiatua National
19751977 38th Pahiatua National

National won the 1949 election and formed the First National Government, new Prime Minister Sidney Holland appointed Holyoake as Minister of Agriculture. Holyoake was also for a year (1949–50) in charge of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and was Minister of Marketing until the department was abolished in 1953.[3]

As Minister of Agriculture for eight years Holyoake enhanced his reputation as a level-headed good administrator. Farm mechanisation was encouraged, the "extermination policy" achieved nearly eliminated the rabbit pest. Dismantling of marketing producer controls was completed.[3]

Holyoake twice went to London to re-negotiate price levels on meat and wool products,[3] and in 1955 attended the Food and Agricultural Organisation conference in Rome. On his return to New Zealand he visited India and the Soviet Union to seek alternative markets for New Zealand, although his trip bore little fruit.[3] In 1957 he led a delegation seeking to protect New Zealand's access to the British market without notable success.[3]

As Deputy leader of the National Party, Holyoake was acting prime minister whenever Holland was overseas. In recognition of this was made a member of the Privy Council in 1954, only after the 1954 general election Holland made him the first person to be formally appointed Deputy Prime Minister.[3]

Prime Minister

Keith Holyoake (fifth from the left) at a meeting of SEATO allies, outside the Old Legislative Building in Manila, Philippines on 24 October 1966.

First term: 1957

Holyoake became Prime Minister two months before the 1957 election, when outgoing Prime Minister Sidney Holland retired due to ill-health, and also became Minister of Māori Affairs on the retirement of Ernest Corbett. The election was won by the Walter Nash-led Labour Party by a margin of one seat. Holyoake became Leader of the Opposition for the next three years.

Second term: 1960–1972

Prime Minister-elect Holyoake leaving Parliament Buildings with the Clerk of the Executive Council, on the way to Government House. Photographed on 12 December 1960 by an Evening Post staff photographer.

In 1960 election the National Party returned to power and formed the Second National government. The victory was attributed to Holyoake's skilful campaigning, particularly his attacks on Minister of Finance Arnold Nordmeyer's so-called Black Budget of 1958, which had increased taxes on petrol, cigarettes and liquor. Holyoake's second term featured by a long period of prosperity and economic expansion. However, increasing social liberalism and moves by the United Kingdom to join the European Economic Community challenged his Government.[2]

Holyoake's government rewrote the criminal legal code, passing the Crimes Act 1961. The Act abolished capital punishment, though only ten National MPs voted for its abolition. His government also introduced a form of voluntary unionism, but the majority of industrial workplaces remained unionised. The Government was comfortably re-elected for a second term in 1963, losing two seats.

In 1966 Holyoake's Government sent limited military support to the anti-communist side in the Vietnam War. This decision lead to bitter scenes at the 1966 general election, although National only lost one seat.[2] Holyoake appointed a rising backbencher, Robert Muldoon as Minister of Finance in 1967, but ranked him only lowly in his Cabinet. In response to falling wool prices and balance of payment problems, Muldoon introduced mini-budgets - with Holyoake's approval.[2]

The National Party Government narrowly won re-election at the 1969 general election. Most of Holyoake's "lieutenants" had resigned or died. On 2 February 1972 Holyoake announced his resignation, stepping down as Prime Minister to ease the succession for his deputy and friend, Jack Marshall.[2]


When National under Marshall was defeated, Holyoake remained prominent in Opposition. He played an active part in the 1975 election, which saw National regain power again under Robert Muldoon. Muldoon appointed Holyoake to the specially created sinecure of Minister of State.


A statue of Sir Keith Holyoake outside the State Services Commission, Molesworth Street, Wellington, New Zealand.

In 1977, Holyoake was unexpectedly and controversially appointed Governor-General by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of the then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. The announcement was made by the Queen at the end of her tour of New Zealand on 7 March 1977, from the Royal Yacht HMY Britannia in Lyttelton Harbour.[9]

This choice was deemed controversial by some, as Holyoake was a sitting Cabinet minister and former Prime Minister. Many opponents of Muldoon's government claimed that it was a political appointment. The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Rowling stated that he would remove Holyoake as Governor-General should the Labour Party win the 1978 general election,[9] and openly suggested that he would have appointed Sir Edmund Hillary as Governor-General.[10] This suggestion was in turn criticised by the Government, as Sir Edmund had backed Labour in 1975 as part of the "Citizens for Rowling" campaign.[11]

As a result of the appointment, Holyoake resigned from Parliament, leading to the Pahiatua by-election of 1977. He was succeeded from his seat by John Falloon.

Holyoake's conduct while in office, however, was acknowledged to be fair and balanced. In particular, Holyoake refused to comment on the 1978 general election, which gave Labour a narrow plurality of votes but a majority to National.[9] Social Credit leader Bruce Beetham said Holyoake as Governor-General had "a scrupulous impartiality that confounded the critics of his appointment".[2] His term as Governor-General was only for three years, on account of his age. Usually Governors-General serve for five years, but Holyoake was the oldest Governor-General to date. His term ended in 1980.[9]

Later life

He died on 8 December 1983, aged 79, in Wellington. His daughter Diane married National MP Ken Comber.

Decorations, awards and memberships



  1. Sir George Grey served as both Governor of New Zealand and Premier of New Zealand in the 19th century, but Holyoake is the only person to have served in both capacities since the vice-regal post was renamed Governor-General upon New Zealand becoming a dominion in 1907.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Richard Wolfe (2005). Battlers, Bluffers and Bully-boys. Random House New Zealand.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wood, G. A. "Holyoake, Keith Jacka". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  4. Gustafson, Barry (2007). Kiwi Keith: a biography of Keith Holyoake. Auckland: Auckland University Press. ISBN 9781869404000. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  5. Geering, Lloyd. "In praise of the secular, part 3 of 4: The value of being secular" (PDF). Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  6. "Official jubilee medals". Evening Post. CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  7. Gustafson 1986, p. 32.
  8. Gustafson 1986, pp. 32f.
  9. 1 2 3 4 McLean, Gavin (November 2006). The Governors: New Zealand's Governors and Governors-General. Dunedin: Otago University Press. ISBN 1-877372-25-0.
  10. Rowling: The man and the myth by John Henderson, Australia New Zealand Press, 1980.
  11. Ross Doughty (1977). The Holyoake years. Feilding.


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Keith Holyoake.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
George Black
Member of Parliament for Motueka
Succeeded by
Jerry Skinner
New constituency Member of Parliament for Pahiatua
Succeeded by
John Falloon
Government offices
Preceded by
Sidney Holland
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Walter Nash
Preceded by
Walter Nash
Succeeded by
Jack Marshall
New title Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Preceded by
Sir Denis Blundell
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir David Beattie
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/19/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.