PEN NEW ZEALAND Inauguration 1934


This list has been put together from available PEN Gazettes in our archives:

1934      Founded by Pat Lawlor – Hon. Secretary

1934      First President – Dr G. H Scholefield

1937      President – C A Morris

1939      President  – Johannes Andersen

First gazette to members

1940      President – Alan Mulgan

1942      President – Alan Mulgan

1944     Col C.A.L.Treadwell, O.B.E

1946     President – Sir James Elliott

1947     President – Sir James Elliott

1947      PEN became an Incorporated Society 1948

1948     First Maori members – Sir Apirana Ngata & Pei Te Hurinui

1948      President – Pat Lawlor

1949      First national NZ Authors Week

1950      President – Stuart Perry

1952      President – Stuart Perry

1954      President – C.R.H. Taylor

1955      President – O.N Gillespie

1957      President – M. H. Holcroft

1958      First national Writers conference

1959      President – M. H. Holcroft

1960      President – Dennis Glover

1962      President – Dennis Glover

1963      President – John Reece-Cole

1964      President – Ruth Mackay

First woman president

1966      President – Malcolm Mason

1968      President – Arthur Helm

1969      President – Neva Clarke

 1970    President – Dr Clarence Beeby

1972     President – Ian Cross

1974      President – Ray Grover

1976      President – Alistair Campbell

1979      President – Michael King

1980      President – Lauris Edmond

1981      President – Fiona Kidman

1983      President – Tony Simpson

1985      President – Vivienne Joseph

1986      President – Louis Johnson

1987      President – Harvey McQueen

1988      President – Rosemary Wildblood

1989      President – Maurice Shadbolt

1990      Acting President – Patrick Waddington

1990      President – Kevin Ireland

1992      President – Chris Else

1994      President – Gordon McLauchlan

PEN NZ became The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ INC) Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa

1996      President – Tessa Duder

1998      President – Philip Temple

1998      President – Joan Rosier-Jones

2000      President – Joan Rosier-Jones

2001      President – William Taylor

2003      President – William Taylor

2004      President – Chris Else

2006      President – Chris Else

2007      President – Paul Smith

2009      Acting President – Dawn Sanders

2009      President – Tony Simpson

2011      President – Tony Simpson

2013     President – Kyle Mewburn

2015      President – Kyle Mewburn

2017      President – Siobhan Harvey

2019      President – Mandy Hager

A History of New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc)

Pat Lawlor
1936 committee


The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc)  was established in 1934 as PEN NZ by journalist Pat Lawlor who called a meeting in the Turnbull Library in Wellington. 

This small group of founding members (which included Jane Mander who famously wrote one of the first New Zealand novels, The Story of a New Zealand River) recorded one piece of incoming correspondence – a letter from PEN London that asked New Zealand to form a branch to discuss literary topics and promote fellowship between writers.

In 1936 the committee ran a New Zealand Authors Week.  It was noted that “New Zealand books emerged from the back shelves of the booksellers, to become a window display item.”  This promotion encouraged new local writers and poets and by 1937 their ranks included A.R.D. Fairburn, John A. Lee MP, R.A.K. Mason and F.W. Reed.

World War II – troops in passage

But by May 1940 newsletters were sombre: “Since our last gazette, Europe has once more been plunged into war and many international PEN centres engulfed and over-run.  We must use all our influence to plan for the new order, which surely must replace the anarchy in Europe.”  In London the wartime PEN committee included H.G. Wells and Evelyn Waugh.

Through the war, meetings were scant due to blackouts and petrol rationing but still, in 1941 even with the paper shortage, a list of books published by members included Frank Sargeson, Ngaio Marsh, Katherine Mansfield and John Mulgan. 

Post war PEN lobbied for a State Literary Fund for writers’ grants and was awarded the handsome sum of two thousand pounds.

Frank Sargeson

In 1949, a coalition of PEN, the Booksellers’ Association, librarians, media, the Publishers’ Association and ‘thespians’ held a week-long Book Festival in Wellington which comprised of interviews, talks and panels.  At the time the government ratified the international Copyright Law drafted in Brussells.  The PEN NZ committee now included Charles Brasch and Allen Curnow.

In 1951, the very first New Zealand Writers Conference was thoughtfully addressed by Mr James K. Baxter, the leader of a young group of New Zealand poets whose “new ideas about poetry were enthusiastically received.”  By 1955 new members included Bruce Mason, C.K. Stead and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.

In the late 1960’s James K. Baxter oversaw the State Literary Fund, Hone Tuwhare and Keri Hulme won prizes and the campaign began for a Public Lending Right to compensate authors for use of their work in public libraries.  This campaign continued for nearly 40 years until it was successful.

Keri Hulme

In 1975, Vice President Michael King wrote a regular column in the newspaper and by that year members included William Taylor, James Belich, Ron Bacon, Ruth Dallas, Marilyn Duckworth, Robin Dudding, Lauris Edmond, Riemke Ensing, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Kidman, James McNeish, Joy Cowley, Bill Manhire, Janet Frame and Maurice Shadbolt.  Sam Hunt hosted the Christmas party.

Michael King

Throughout this time for PEN NZ, the archives show vigorous and continual advocacy for the benefit of authors, which continues to this day. 

One of PEN’s most famous cases involved New Zealand writer Janet Frame.  She was in a mental hospital scheduled for a lobotomy (after years of electric shock therapy) when the hospital superintendent received a letter from PEN NZ informing them that she had just won a national literary award for a book of short stories.  This stopped the operation and gave us her subsequent body of work.  In later years she was awarded the Order of New Zealand, named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and won numerous literary awards in New Zealand and internationally.  All due to a letter from PEN.

Janet Frame

PEN NZ became New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc)  in 1994 and continued its core work for writers: as an information hub, through advocacy and lobbying and contract advice, by providing professional development services and administering prizes and awards.

At every NZSA meeting we mark the empty chair in support of free speech and to acknowledge the difficulties faced by our colleagues around the globe.   We remember those who are imprisoned, censored or silenced for their writing.  We are closely connected to our sister organisations (both PEN International and the Society of Authors) and take sustenance, strength and comfort from our shared trials and endeavours.

NZSA Oral History Podcasts launched 2018

We continue to come up with new ways to provide new services for our members in what has been a disrupted publishing environment, and share the stories of our writers with the wider community. 

In 2018 we released seven episodes of the NZSA Oral History Podcasts (using the interviews from the NZSA Oral History Project, Series One) that were launched at the National Writers’ Conference in 2018.  Series 2 and 3 will release through 2019 and Series 4 is planned.

These provide an enduring resource for all New Zealanders about the life and times of these iconic authors and the challenges of life as a writer. They provide an invaluable primary resource about the personalities and works that have created our unique body of New Zealand literature.  

Presented at the National Writers Forum 2018 by Jenny Nagle