Catherine Tizard

Dame Catherine Anne Tizard, ONZ, GCMG, GCVO, DBE, QSO, DStJ (née Maclean; born 4 April 1931) is a New Zealand politician who served as Mayor of Auckland City from 1983 to 1990, and the 16th Governor-General of New Zealand from 1990 to 1996. She was the first woman to hold either office.

Dame Catherine Tizard

16th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
13 December 1990  21 March 1996
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterJim Bolger
Preceded bySir Paul Reeves
Succeeded bySir Michael Hardie Boys
35th Mayor of Auckland City
In office
DeputyJohn Strevens (1983–86)
Harold Goodman (1986–88)
Phil Warren (1988–90)
Preceded byColin Kay
Succeeded byLes Mills
Personal details
Catherine Anne Maclean

(1931-04-04) 4 April 1931 (age 90)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
(m. 1951; div. 1980)
Alma materUniversity of Auckland

Early life and family

Catherine Anne Maclean was born in Auckland on 4 April 1933 to Scottish immigrants, Neil and Helen Maclean, and grew up in Waharoa, near Matamata, Waikato.[1] Neil was a factory worker at the local Waharoa dairy factory.[2] She attended Matamata College, and she gained a University Bursary in her final year, 1948. In 1949 Catherine enrolled at Auckland University College in Zoology.[3]

While at university, Catherine met Bob Tizard, then president of the Auckland University Students Association. On their second date, Bob told Catherine he was "going into politics. And I'm going to marry you."[4] They married in 1951, and Bob unsuccessfully ran for the seat of Remuera later that year at the general election and again at the 1954 general election. He was finally successful at the 1957 election, winning in Tamaki, but was defeated three years later by Robert Muldoon.

The couple moved to Avondale and started a family, with Catherine having four children in six years starting at the age of 21 with Anne, followed by Linda, Judith and Nigel. They moved in 1957 to Glendowie, in the Tamaki electorate. Bob ran for and won the Pakuranga seat at the general election in 1963.


In 1961 Tizard returned to university to complete her degree in zoology.[5][6] She then taught and worked at Auckland University from 1962 to 1983,[6] during which time she co-authored at least two papers with Patricia Bergquist on sponges,[7][8] and provided technical assistance as preparator for a third.[9]

Auckland City Council

Tizard was elected to the Auckland City Council in 1971 and was re-elected in 1974, 1977 and 1980. She was also elected to the Auckland Regional Authority in 1980, at the same time as running for Mayor of Auckland against incumbent Sir Dove-Myer Robinson and councillor Colin Kay. This three-way split gave the election to Kay by a margin of 2,000 votes. She opposed the 1981 Springbok tour, and an attempt to ban Hare Krishna from performing chants on Queen Street.[10]

Between 1972 and 1975, Tizard's husband Bob was a Cabinet Minister in the Third Labour Government, serving first as Minister of Health and later as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.[11] This put considerable strain on the family as Bob was often away overseas. Tizard and her family moved to Wellington, and she commuted to Auckland for council business.[12]

From 1976 to 1985, Tizard starred on the popular TVNZ chat show Beauty and the Beast, along with Selwyn Toogood and Shona McFarlane. She later attributed her success in politics to this show.[13]

Mayor of Auckland City

Tizard decided to run for Mayor of Auckland City again at the 1983 local elections. She defeated incumbent Colin Kay.[14] She was the first female to serve as Mayor of Auckland.[15] In 1984 there was a major riot in Queen Street.[16] In the 1985 New Year Honours, she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for public and community service.[17]

During Tizard's term as mayor, the Aotea Centre next to Aotea Square was developed. She was also the patron of the 99th Police recruit wing in 1985 in which all 75 recruits after graduation were sent to Auckland to serve. She was re-elected in 1986, and once again in 1989 following a major amalgamation of local authorities.[18] In 1990 Auckland hosted the Commonwealth Games, an event Tizard had worked to secure for Auckland.[19]


Tizard delivering a speech at an official function, 1992

In 1989, Tizard was appointed by Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, as the nation's first female governor-general on the advice of Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. She took office on 13 December 1990, causing a by-election for the Mayoralty of Auckland.[18] She accepted on the proviso that the Queen be informed before her Royal tour in February 1990, and that the leader of the opposition be informed.[20]

Then Deputy Prime Minister Helen Clark and Labour Party President Margaret Wilson[21] pushed for a female governor-general, as the 100th anniversary of Women's suffrage in New Zealand would occur during the governor-general's term in 1993. Tizard had been informed of her impending appointment by her former husband Bob Tizard, who was a member of Cabinet at the time. She later commented that this was the only time Bob breached cabinet confidentiality.[18]

Tizard was the third female governor-general in the Commonwealth (after Dame Minita Gordon of Belize in 1981, and Jeanne Sauvé in Canada in 1984). In 1993, on the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, Tizard received the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.[22]

During her tenure in office, Tizard ended the practice of bowing to the governor-general, declaring, "No New Zealander should have to bow to another".[1] She also ended the practice of members of staff ceasing to clean whenever she entered the room.[23]

While governor-general, a particular piece of legislation did not appeal to Tizard at all. She asked the question of her responsible official and asked the question of herself and finally said (apparently): "All right, I will sign my assent, but I will do it in black ink!" A special bottle was obtained and used for the purpose!"[24]


Prior to the second referendum on electoral reform in New Zealand in June 1993, Tizard caused some outrage by making an unscripted suggestion in a lecture on the role of the governor-general that under mixed-member proportional representation the governor-general would have to use their reserve powers more often, which would create instability.[25]

The 1993 New Zealand general election – the last under First Past the Post – nearly resulted in a hung parliament, with the election night result having the two major parties tied. She asked Sir David Beattie to form a committee, along with three retired appeal court judges, to decide whom to appoint as prime minister.[25] However, National won one more seat and was returned to power when Labour's Sir Peter Tapsell agreed to become Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives.[26]

In an interview with North & South in 1996, Tizard stated that she could not believe "...some of the idiocies of the health system", causing great consternation from the Minister of Health.[27]


On her retirement from office, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who had nominated Tizard for the office, stated: "She has been a powerful, yes a presidential public presence. She has been a part of New Zealand's growing up."[28]

In the 2002 Queen's Birthday and Golden Jubilee Honours, Tizard was appointed as an Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand.[29]

In 2004, Tizard stated that she supported a New Zealand republic "in principle" and when she was governor-general, had discussed the issue of republicanism with the Queen: "She is quite sanguine about these things. She has always said it is a decision for New Zealand to make, and 'whatever decision New Zealand makes, of course we would accept it'."[30]

In December 2004, Tizard became a member of the NZ Trust, supporting a referendum on whether the New Zealand flag should be changed. She said, "Our present flag served a young post-colonial country well, but the time has come to consider a change which more appropriately recognises our changed identity and confidence in ourselves. Let's find out what the country thinks of the idea of a change."[31]

In 2007, Tizard supported former Mayor of Auckland, Dick Hubbard's campaign for re-election as mayor at the local body elections.[32]

On 9 October 2007 Tizard was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 3rd Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly's Own) and Northland Regiment, a largely ceremonial role.[33]

Changes to the rules in 2006 granted Tizard the use of the style The Honourable for life,[34] as a consequence of having been governor-general.

In 2010 Tizard published her memoirs, entitled Cat Amongst the Pigeons, a reference to her personal arms.[35]

In December 2012, Tizard starred in an online video campaign supporting gay marriage, alongside New Zealand singers Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith, as well as Olympian Danyon Loader.[36]


Coat of arms of Catherine Tizard
The arms of Dame Catherine Tizard, granted on 9 December 1994, consist of:
Upon a helm with a wreath argent and azure within a circlet upon the rim eight New Zealand ferns (five manifest) argent a Cat a Mountain guardant sable holding in its foreclaws a "Kate Sheppard" Camellia slipped and leaved proper mantled azure doubled argent.
Barry wavy argent and azure overall a lymphad oars in action the sail sable charged with a representation of the royal crown proper pennons gules between three escallops or.
Two New Zealand Wood Pigeons wings elevated addorsed proper that on the dexter supporting with its interior foot a representation of the mace of the House of Representatives of New Zealand and that on the sinister likewise supporting with its interior foot a representation of the mace of the City of Auckland
All on a compartment comprising a grassy mount from which grow New Zealand fern and thistles all proper.
Floreat Feles Felix

See also


  1. McLean 2006, p. 327.
  2. "Dame Cath Moves Up: 1990". NZ on Screen. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
  3. Tizard 2010, p. 34.
  4. Tizard 2010, p. 35.
  5. Tizard 2010, p. 75.
  6. "The Hon Dame Catherine Tizard, GCMG, GCVO, DBE, QSO". Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  7. Bergquist, PR; Tizard, CA (1967). "Australian Intertidal Sponges from the Darwin Area". Micronesica. 3 (2): 175–202. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  8. Bergquist, PR; Morton, JE; Tizard, CA (1973). "Some Demospongiae from the Solomon Islands with descriptive notes on the major sponge habitats". Micronesica. 7 (1–2): 99–121.
  9. Bergquist, P.R. "The Marine Fauna of New Zealand: Porifera, Demospongiae, Part 2 (Axinellida and Halichondrida)" (PDF). New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin. 197: 10.
  10. Tizard 2010, p. 195.
  11. Wood, G.A. (1996). Ministers and Members in the New Zealand Parliament (2nd ed.). pp. 56–59.
  12. Tizard 2010, p. 102.
  13. Tizard 2010, p. 137.
  14. Tizard 2010, p. 149.
  15. "Our patron – Dame Catherine Tizard". University of Auckland Society. Archived from the original on 14 August 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  16. Tizard 2010, p. 163.
  17. "No. 49970". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 31 December 1984. p. 1.
  18. Tizard 2010, p. 203.
  19. Tizard 2010, p. 193.
  20. Tizard 2010, p. 204.
  21. McLean 2006, p. 324.
  22. "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  23. Tizard 2010, p. 225.
  24. Anand Satyanand (16 September 2010). "Speech to launch Dame Catherine Tizard's memoirs, Government House Auckland". Archived from the original on 15 March 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
  25. McLean 2006, p. 333.
  26. Tizard 2010, p. 273.
  27. McLean 2006, p. 335.
  28. McLean 2006, p. 336.
  29. "Queen's Birthday and Golden Jubilee honours list 2002". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 3 June 2002. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  30. "Ditch Queen, say former Governors-General: New Zealand Herald". The New Zealand Herald. 14 November 2004. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  31. "9 December 2004: Trust - Dame Catherine Tizard heads new group of" (Press release). Retrieved 23 January 2007.
  32. Orsman, Bernard (6 September 2007). "High-profile backing for Hubbard campaign". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 September 2007.
  33. "Dame Cath Tizard appointed to honorary Colonel role". NZDF. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  34. "Changes to rules around use of title" (Press release). New Zealand Government. 17 July 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  35. Tizard 2010.
  36. "Marriage equality 'about love'". 3 News NZ. 6 December 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2016.

Further reading