George Laking

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Sir George Robert Laking
2nd New Zealand Chief Ombudsman
In office
Preceded by Guy Powles
Succeeded by Lester Castle
Personal details
Born 15 October 1912
Died 10 January 2008
Alma mater LLB,
Victoria University of Wellington

Sir George Robert Laking KCMG (15 October 1912 – 10 January 2008) was a New Zealand diplomat who served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador to the United States, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Chief Ombudsman.

Early life[edit]

Laking was born in Auckland, and educated at Auckland Grammar School, before completing his LLB at Victoria University College. He started working in the New Zealand Customs Department in 1929, before moving to the Prime Minister's Department in the fledgling Foreign Ministry. In 1940, Laking became head of the Organisation for National Security, managing the War Cabinet Secretariat, a post he held until 1948.

Early postings[edit]

In 1949, Laking was appointed Minister to the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, serving as deputy to Ambassador Carl Berendsen, for seven years. During this time, Laking was frequently the main point of contact between New Zealand and the US administration, owing to Berendsen's substantial involvement in the establishment of the United Nations as Permanent Representative to that organisation.

Laking returned to Wellington in 1956, following the death of deputy secretary Foss Shanahan, to act as Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs under Alister McIntosh. Laking was Acting High Commissioner to London from 1958 to 1961.

Ambassador to Washington[edit]

Laking was based in Washington as Ambassador to the United States from 1961 to 1967. This was considered to be the most important of New Zealand's foreign postings, due to the prominence of the United States, and the shift of allegiance away from the United Kingdom towards the US. During this time, the key themes were the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the tumultuous years of escalation of US involvement in Vietnam. Laking supported New Zealand involvement in Vietnam, and was under pressure from the US Government for New Zealand to send combat troops to the conflict. McIntosh was less supportive of the idea, but Defence Chiefs in Wellington, with the notable exception of Defence Secretary Jack Hunn, and politicians unwilling to offend US interests, supported the move.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs[edit]

In 1967, Laking returned to Wellington where he succeeded McIntosh in the posts of Secretary of Foreign Affairs and as head of the Prime Minister's Department. He held these positions his retirement in 1971. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1969 New Year Honours.[1]

Chief Ombudsman[edit]

Laking was appointed an Ombudsman in 1975, working under Sir Guy Powles. In 1977, Laking succeeded Powles as Chief Ombudsman, holding that post until 1984. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1985 Queen's Birthday Honours.[2]

Laking chaired the government commission which recommended changes in the alcohol licensing laws.[3] These resulted in the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act.[4]


  1. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 44742, 20 December 1968. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  2. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 50155, 14 June 1985. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  3. ^ Easton, Brian (23 February 2008). "Cheers to George Laking: 1912-2008". New Zealand Listener. 212 (3537). Archived from the original on 2008-02-27. 
  4. ^ Linda Hill and Liz Stewart. "The Sale of Liquor Act, 1989: Reviewing Regulatory Practices". New Zealand Ministry of Social Development. Archived from the original (DOC) on 2007-10-26. 


  • Notable New Zealanders. The Pictorial Who's Who (1979, Paul Hamlyn Ltd, Auckland)
  • An eye, an ear and a voice: 50 years in New Zealand’s external relations edited by Malcolm Templeton (1993, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington NZ) ISBN 0-477-03725-9
  • Undiplomatic Dialogue: Letters between Carl Berendsen and Alister McIntosh 1943-1952 edited by Ian McGibbon (1993, Auckland University Press, Auckland NZ) ISBN 1-86940-095-X
  • Unofficial Channels: Letters between Alister McIntosh and Foss Shanahan, George Laking and Frank Corner 1946-1966 edited by Ian McGibbon (1999, Victoria University Press, Wellington NZ) ISBN 0-86473-365-8

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lloyd White
as Chargé d'Affaires in the United States
Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Frank Corner
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Guy Powles
New Zealand Chief Ombudsman
Succeeded by
Lester Castle