Ben Couch

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The Honourable
Ben Couch
34th Minister of Māori Affairs
In office
13 December 1978 – 26 July 1984
Preceded byDuncan MacIntyre
Succeeded byKoro Wētere
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wairarapa
In office
Preceded byJack Williams
Succeeded byReg Boorman
Personal details
BornManuera Benjamin Riwai Couch
(1925-06-27)27 June 1925
Rapaki, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
Died3 June 1996(1996-06-03) (aged 70)
Masterton, New Zealand
Political partyNational
Spouse(s)Bessie Couch
Rugby career
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight81 kg (179 lb)
SchoolChristchurch Technical School
Rugby union career
Position(s) First five-eighth
All Black No. 469
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
1945–54 Wairarapa 55 ()
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
New Zealand
New Zealand Māori

Manuera Benjamin Riwai Couch QSO JP (27 June 1925 – 3 June 1996) was a New Zealand politician and rugby union player. He was a team-member of the All Blacks and the New Zealand Māori rugby union team in the 1940s.

Early life[edit]

Couch was born in 1925 in Christchurch and he grew up on Banks Peninsula. Couch's parents were Methodists and he was largely raised by his grandmother who belonged to the Salvation Army. He attended Christchurch Technical School. He married Bessie Carter, his childhood sweetheart who was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Couch was in the Royal New Zealand Air Force at the end of World War II but was never sent into battle. At the age of 24 Couch joined the LDS Church. He moved to the Wairarapa in the mid-1940s.[1]

Rugby union[edit]

A first five-eighth, Couch represented Wairarapa at a provincial level, and was a member of the New Zealand national side, the All Blacks, from 1947 to 1949. He played seven matches for the All Blacks including three internationals.[1] Of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Mutunga descent,[2] he also played 20 matches for New Zealand Māori between 1948 and 1950.[1]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1975–1978 38th Wairarapa National
1978–1981 39th Wairarapa National
1981–1984 40th Wairarapa National

In the 1975 general election, he was elected to Parliament as the National Party MP for the Wairarapa electorate,[3] thus becoming (with Rex Austin) only the second and third Māori (after Sir James Carroll) to win a general electorate (as opposed to a Māori electorate).[4]

He served as Minister of Māori Affairs and Minister of Police in the third National Government, but lost his seat in 1984 to Labour's Reg Boorman.[3] While Minister of Police, he called for the birch to be introduced for violent offenders and allowed the police to use longer batons. He created some controversy by wearing a Springbok rugby team blazer at the time of their 1981 tour of New Zealand as well as attending a public meeting organised by the League of Rights. This was despite his having been denied entry to South Africa as part of the All Blacks rugby team in the 1940s because of his race.

In the 1991 Queen's Birthday Honours Couch was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services.[5]

In the 1990s he was involved in various Māori organisations.


He died in 1996 in Masterton.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Knight, Lindsay. "Ben Couch". New Zealand Rugby Museum. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  2. ^ Snow, S.G. "Couch, Manuera Benjamin Riwai". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 191. OCLC 154283103.
  4. ^ "Ngā māngai — Māori representation". Te Ara — the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 13 July 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  5. ^ "No. 52564". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1991. p. 31.
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Wilkinson
Succeeded by
Warren Cooper
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Jack Williams
Member of Parliament for Wairarapa
Succeeded by
Reg Boorman