PEN NEW ZEALAND Inauguration 1934


This list has been put together from information gleaned from the archive of PEN Gazettes:

1934      Founded by Pat Lawlor OBE – Hon. Secretary

1934      First President – Dr. G. H Scholefield

1937      President – C A Morris

1939      President  – Johannes Andersen

First gazette 

1940      President – Alan Mulgan OBE

1942      President – Alan Mulgan OBE

1944     Col C.A.L.Treadwell, OBE

1946     President – Sir James Elliott

1947     President – Sir James Elliott

1948      PEN became an Incorporated Society 

1948     First Māori members – Sir Apirana Ngata & Pei Te Hurinui Jones OBE

1948      President – Pat Lawlor OBE

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 OBE

1958      First National Writers Conference

1959      President – M. H. Holcroft OBE

1960      President – Dennis Glover DSC 

1962      President – Dennis Glover DSC 

1963      President – John Reece-Cole

1964      President – Ruth Mackay

1964      First woman president

1966      President – Malcolm Mason

1968      President – Arthur Helm

1969      President – Neva Clarke QSM

1970     President – Dr. Clarence Beeby ONZ CMG

1972     President – Ian Cross CMG

1974      President – Ray Grover

1976      President – Alistair Campbell ONZM

1979      President – Michael King OBE

1980      President – Lauris Edmond OBE

1981      President – Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE 

1983      President – Tony Simpson

1985      President – Vivienne Joseph

1986      President – Louis Johnson

1987      President – Harvey McQueen

1988      President – Rosemary Wildblood MNZM

1989      President – Maurice Shadbolt CBE

1990      Acting President – Patrick Waddington

1990      President – Kevin Ireland OBE

1992      President – Chris Else

1994      President – Gordon McLauchlan ONZM

1994      PEN NZ became The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ INC) 

1996      President – Tessa Duder CNZM OBE

1998      President – Philip Temple ONZM

1998      President – Joan Rosier-Jones

2000      President – Joan Rosier-Jones

2001      President – William Taylor ONZM 

2003      President – William Taylor ONZM 

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 – Dr. Siobhan Harvey

2019      President – Mandy Hager

2020    First Māori Board seat: Te Mangai Poari ki te Māori: Kim Harris

2021      President – Mandy Hager

2022      President – Dr. Vanda Symon

2023     Establishment of a 9th branch for Māori writers.

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 founders (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

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.

Throughout 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 Brussels (The Berne Convention).  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 the free public access to 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 The 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 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 sister organisations (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

NZSA continues to come up with new ways to provide new services for writers in what has been a disrupted publishing environment and share the stories of our writing and writers with the wider community. 

In 2018 NZSA released the first 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’ Forum 2018.  The interviews and series continue with series 5 now in production.

These podcasts 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.  

Potted history presented at the National Writers Forum 2018.