Sidney Holland

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The Right Honourable
Sir Sidney George Holland
b&w portrait photo of a man aged 60
Sidney George Holland in 1953
25th Prime Minister of New Zealand
In office
13 December 1949 (1949-12-13) – 20 September 1957 (1957-09-20)
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Governor General Bernard Freyberg
Charles Norrie
Charles Lyttelton
Deputy Keith Holyoake
Preceded by Peter Fraser
Succeeded by Keith Holyoake
14th Leader of the Opposition
In office
26 November 1940 (1940-11-26) – 13 December 1949 (1949-12-13)
Preceded by Adam Hamilton
Succeeded by Peter Fraser
Personal details
Born (1893-10-18)18 October 1893
Greendale, Canterbury, New Zealand
Died 5 August 1961(1961-08-05) (aged 67)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political party Reform (1935–1938)
National (1938–1957)
Spouse(s) Florence Beatrice Drayton
Relations Henry Holland (father)
Eric Holland (son)
Children 4
Religion Anglican[1]

Sir Sidney George Holland, GCMG, CH (18 October 1893 – 5 August 1961) was the 25th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 13 December 1949 to 20 September 1957.

Early life[edit]

Holland was born in Greendale in the Canterbury Region of the South Island, one of eight children. His father, Henry Holland, was a farmer and merchant, and was elected Mayor of Christchurch in 1912. Holland was a prominent sportsman and sports administrator, representing Canterbury at provincial and inter-island level in hockey. After retiring from playing, he managed the New Zealand representative hockey team on an unbeaten tour of Australia in the 1932 and was a prominent hockey referee. In business, he worked for the successful family engineering company in Christchurch.[1]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1935–1938 25th Christchurch North Reform
1938–1943 26th Christchurch North National
1943–1946 27th Christchurch North National
1946–1949 28th Fendalton National
1949–1951 29th Fendalton National
1951–1954 30th Fendalton National
1954–1957 31st Fendalton National

He came from a politically prominent family and his father, Henry Holland served as Mayor of Christchurch from 1912 to 1919.

Sidney was elected to Parliament in 1935 after replacing his father in elections for his seat, due to Henry's ill health. He was originally a member of the Reform Party; soon after he came to Parliament, it merged with the United Party to form the National Party. In 1940 he replaced National's first non-interim leader Adam Hamilton, who was seen as ineffectual. During the war he was Deputy Chairman of the War Cabinet from 30 June 1942 to 2 October 1942, when he resigned. He served as Leader of the Opposition for nearly ten years, until the National Party won the 1949 general election.

He represented the Christchurch North electorate from 1935 to 1946, and then the Fendalton electorate from 1946 to 1957.

Prime minister[edit]

Sidney Holland's First National Government implemented economic reforms, dismantling many state controls including butter and petrol rationing. His government also emphasized individualism, personal freedom, and private enterprise in accordance with its 1949 elecotral platform. In 1951, the National government signed the ANZUS defence agreement with Australia and the United States. As a member of the Western alliance, the Holland National government also committed New Zealand troops to the Korean War. A demand for woollen clothing during the conflict created a brief economic boom for New Zealand's sheep farmers.[2] The government also undertook constitutional change in 1950, by abolishing the Legislative Council, the upper house of Parliament, on the grounds that it was ineffectual. Subsequently New Zealand has had a unicameral parliament. His government had promised to reinstate the death penalty, which had been out of use since 1935 and abolished for murder in 1941, and subsequently did so in 1950. Another eight executions were carried out through Holland's administration (out of 36 murder convictions, 22 of whom had resulted in a death sentence). To solve the partisan-infected issue Holland called a referendum to be held on the same day as the general election of 1957, but the proposal failed to make the ballot. No executions were carried out under Holland's successor, Keith Holyoake, and in 1961 Holyoake oversaw a vote in which Parliament voted 41-30 (with eleven National MPs crossing the floor) to abolish capital punishment for murder.

In 1951, Holland caused controversy by confronting locked-out dockers and coal miners intent on what he called "industrial anarchy". He ordered the army to unload cargo from key ports and called a snap election, on the basis of this decision. Under his leadership the government implemented Emergency Regulations which drastically curtailed civic liberties, including the freedom of speech and expression. The Regulations were designed to silence and criminalise any support for the watersiders, including food supplies for their families and publications which publicised watersiders concerns and perspectives. The National Party was re-elected with an increased majority, with the backing of a largely conservative Press and the State control of radio broadcasting. According to former journalist and speech writer Redmer Yska, Prime Minister Holland and his government exploited anti-Communist sentiment during the waterfront dispute. Due to the Cold War atmosphere emerging in New Zealand, Holland was able to depict the watersiders as part of the "Red Peril" that was threatening Western democracy.[2]

Resignation and later life[edit]

Following a period of ill health, Holland stepped down as Prime Minister in September 1957 and was replaced by Keith Holyoake.

Holland was knighted after stepping down as Prime Minister and retired at the November 1957 general election. He died in Wellington Hospital after suffering further ill health in 1961.

His son Eric Holland became a National MP for Fendalton and Riccarton (1967–81) and a cabinet minister (1975–78).

Significance of Holland's legacy[edit]

Holland was one of New Zealand’s most significant politicians. It was due not only because of his 22 years as an MP, of which 17 was as party leader, and almost eight as Prime Minister, or because of the achievements of his government between 1949 and 1957. His major contribution was undoubtedly the role he played in the creation and consolidation of the National Party, which was to dominate New Zealand politics for much of the latter half of the twentieth century.


  1. ^ a b Gustafson, Barry. "Holland, Sidney George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Yska, Redmer (2004). "Chapter 2: Spies, Lies, and Red Herrings". In Grant, David. The Big Blue: Snapshots of the 1951 Watefront Lockout. Canterbury University Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1-877257-28-1. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Prime Ministers' Office biography
  • Gustafson, B. The first 50 years. Auckland, 1986
  • Obit. Evening Post. 5 Aug. 1961: 18
  • Wilson, J. O. ‘Holland, Sir Sidney George’. In An encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Ed. A. H. McLintock. Wellington, 1966
Government offices
Preceded by
Peter Fraser
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Keith Holyoake
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Henry Holland
Member of Parliament for Christchurch North
In abeyance
Title next held by
Mike Moore
New constituency Member of Parliament for Fendalton
Succeeded by
Jack Watts