Keith Holyoake

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Keith Holyoake


Personal Details
Birth: 11 February 1904
near Pahiatua, New Zealand
Death: 8 December 1983
in Wellington, New Zealand
Marriage: 1934, to Norma Janet Ingram
Children: Five
Religion: Presbyterian
Background: Farmer
Political Details
Electorates: Motueka, Pahiatua
Order: 26th Prime Minister
Political Party: Reform, National
First Premiership
Predecessor: Sidney Holland
Term of Office: 20 September 1957
to 12 December 1957
Duration: 2 months, 22 days
Cause of Departure: Lost election
Successor: Walter Nash
Second Premiership
Predecessor: Walter Nash
Term of Office: 12 December 1960
to 7 February 1972
Duration: 11 years, 1 month, 26 days
Cause of Departure: Retirement
Successor: Jack Marshall

The Right Honorable Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake, KG, GCMG, CH, QSO was a New Zealand politician. He was National Party Prime Minister from September 20, 1957 to December 12, 1957, then again from December 12, 1960 to February 7, 1972. Five years later, he was appointed Governor-General of New Zealand from 1977 to 1980.


Early life

Holyoake was born on 11 February 1904, a short distance from Pahiatua, a town in New Zealand's Wairarapa region. His family lived for a time in both Hastings and Tauranga, but in 1913, settled in Riwaka, near Motueka.

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

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, and was successful. He became the youngest parliament member at the time.

In the 1935 election, Holyoake retained his seat despite a massive swing against the Reform-United coalition. In the aftermath of this election, Holyoake played a key role in transforming the coalition into the modern National Party. Holyoake very quickly gained considerable respect from his colleagues, and was regarded as a rising star in the new party. In the 1938 election, however, Holyoake lost his seat to a challenger from the governing Labour Party.

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. After National won the 1949 election, new Prime Minister Sidney Holland appointed Holyoake as Minister of Agriculture. Later, Holland made him the first person to be formally appointed Deputy Prime Minister.


Holyoake became Prime Minister a short time before the 1957 election, Sidney Holland having retired due to ill-health. The election, however, was narrowly won by the Labour Party. Holyoake was Leader of the Opposition for three years before National returned to power in the 1960 election. National's victory is often attributed to Holyoake's skillful campaigning, particularly his attacks on Minister of Finance Arnold Nordmeyer's so-called "Black Budget".

Sir Keith was the third longest-serving Prime Minister (just under 12 years) that New Zealand had ever had (he is surpassed by Richard Seddon's 13 years as Premier/Prime Minister and William Massey's close to 13 years as Prime Minister). 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). In 1972 Holyoake resigned as Prime Minister to ease the succession for his deputy and friend, Jack Marshall.

Later life

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

In 1977, Holyoake was unexpectedly appointed Governor-General. This choice was controversial, with many opponents of Muldoon's government claiming that it was a political appointment. His conduct while in office, however, was acknowledged by most to be fair and balanced. His term as Governor-General ended in 1980.

Sir Keith died in December 1983, aged 79, in Wellington.

Preceded by:
Sir Edward Denis Blundell
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by:
Sir David Stuart Beattie

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