Launch of Vol 4 Dictionary of NZ Biography

  • Jack Elder
Internal Affairs

Prime Minister, distinguished guests, writers, friends and associates of the DNZB, welcome

And a special welcome to descendants of the subjects in Volume 4 who are present. It is indeed an honour to have you here.

(Peter McCombs whose grandmother was the first woman MP following her husband James into the House; descendants of some of the police in the volume)

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography project is a leader in historical reference publishing in New Zealand.

The Dictionary also has produced the largest body of Maori language text published in its Maori volumes - the fourth to be launched tonight along with the large English volume

The quality and attractiveness of the publications are the result of a partnership between the Department of Internal Affairs and Auckland University Press and bring together a unique body of expertise

The Dictionary has been jointly funded by Vote Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board. It has received more than $4.5 million in lottery grants since 1982. The most recent grant of $1 million was in 1996 for the completion of the dictionary.

The DNZB team has been part of Internal Affairs now since 1983. Since 1990 they have completed four major volumes in English and four in the Maori language. Several subsidiary publications, including one on the Suffragists and one on the King Movement, have also been born.

I am proud of this team in DIA and extend my warmest congratulations to them all and to their associates - a high performing group that has set the highest standards, and one that has won the admiration of dictionaries in other countries.

Volume by volume the DNZB team has built up a new and exciting picture of our national identity

It is worth noting that selection for the volumes has enjoyed complete freedom from any persuasive constraints of a political kind

On the other hand, the role of Internal Affairs happens to be well covered in the choice of subjects for this fourth volume - perhaps because the department has had such a wide brief and has had associates of a remarkable kind; among them are:

the most notable of course is Joe Heenan, under-secretary (chief executive) for the department from 1935 to 1949 who facilitated the setting up of the literary fund and took other influential initiatives in the cultural field which the country has continued to enjoy

Interesting too to see among the DNZB subjects Guy Scholefield, parliamentary librarian and compiler of the 1940 Dictionary - which of course was published by Internal Affairs.
A national art union organiser - Neil McArthur - and an honorary wildlife ranger - Perrine Moncrieff - are also hiding in this volume
For the department one of the strengths of DNZB project is that it reaches into communities throughout the country: it has a strong community-base in its numerous supporting Working Parties who in turn bring to each volume their special local know-how of who has been significant in the country's development.

Tonight we welcome convenors of those Working Parties along with all those who have contributed in small and very large manner.

Tonight is a celebration - not only of two new books, but of being a New Zealander - of belonging and being proud of our identity. Congratulations once again to all who have made this possible!