Guy Powles

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Sir Guy Richardson Powles
1st New Zealand Chief Ombudsman
In office
Succeeded by George Laking
New Zealand High Commissioner to India
In office
Preceded by Bill Challis
Succeeded by F H T de Malmanche
High Commissioner of Western Samoa
In office
Preceded by Francis William Voelcker
Succeeded by Office terminated by Samoan independence
Personal details
Born Otaki, New Zealand
Died 24 October 1994
Alma mater LLB, LLD,
Victoria University of Wellington
Profession Barrister

Sir Guy Richardson Powles ONZ KBE CMG ED (5 April 1905 – 24 October 1994) was a New Zealand diplomat, the last Governor of Western Samoa and architect of Samoan independence, and New Zealand's first Ombudsman.

Early life[edit]

Powles was born in Otaki, north of Wellington, in 1905. Powles was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel C. Guy Powles, a decorated military soldier who served with distinction during World War I as Brigade Major New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade 1914–16 and AA & QMG ANZAC Mounted Division 1916–18. In 1922 he wrote a volume of the New Zealand official history, 'The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine' Volume III 'Official History New Zealand's Effort in the Great War', and in 1928 edited 'The history of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles 1914–1919' by Officers of the Regiment, and later became Chief of General Staff of the New Zealand Army.

Powles earned his LLB from Victoria University of Wellington and practised as a barrister in Wellington from 1929–1940. During the War, Powles went on active military service, and achieved the rank of colonel, commanding the New Zealand artillery regiment in the South Pacific at Guadalcanal and New Caledonia.

Powles was a founding member of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in 1934, along with Alister McIntosh, John Cawte Beaglehole, and William Sutch.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Powles joined the fledgling Department of External Affairs in 1945, working alongside such notable figures as Alister McIntosh, George Laking, and later Frank Corner and Merwyn Norrish. His first assignment was in Washington, where he served as Counsellor working on the Far Eastern Commission, established to work through the issues relating to Japan's surrender during World War II.

In 1949, Powles became New Zealand High Commissioner to Samoa: in this role he was set to become the last New Zealand governor of that territory. Over the next ten years, Powles worked through the issues relating to Samoa's independence from New Zealand.

In 1960, Powles became New Zealand High Commissioner to India, which he served until 1962.

Powles was involved in a large number of international conferences, including the UN United Nations Trusteeship Council, the South Pacific Commission, the Conference on Japanese Peace Treaty, the International Whaling Conference, the Economic Commission Conference, and the Colombo Plan Conference.


Powles was knighted in 1961, and was made New Zealand's first Ombudsman in 1962. He served in this role until 1977, by which time he had been joined by another Ombudsman, and acted as Chief Ombudsman. Powles also acted as New Zealand's first Race Relations Conciliator. On the international stage, Powles did a substantial amount of work in promoting the office of the ombudsman.

Other information[edit]

Powles' son is diplomat Michael Powles, a former New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, and former Ambassador to Indonesia, China, and the United Nations. His grandson is Timothy Powles, producer, engineer and drummer for Australian band The Church.



  1. ^ New Zealand Army Orders 1946/87
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42233. p. 2. 27 December 1960.
  3. ^ "Honours and Awards" (15 February 1990) 23 New Zealand Gazette 445 at 446.
Government offices
New creation New Zealand Chief Ombudsman
Succeeded by
Sir George Laking