David Beattie

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Sir David Beattie

Sir David Beattie.jpg
14th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
6 November 1980 10 November 1985
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (1980–1984)
David Lange (1984–1985)
Preceded bySir Keith Holyoake
Succeeded bySir Paul Reeves
Personal details
David Stuart Beattie

(1924-02-29)29 February 1924
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died4 February 2001(2001-02-04) (aged 76)
Upper Hutt, New Zealand
NationalityAustralian and New Zealand
Norma Margaret Sarah Macdonald(m. 1950)

Sir David Stuart Beattie GCMG GCVO QSO KStJ QC (29 February 1924 – 4 February 2001) was an Australian-born New Zealand judge who served as the 14th Governor-General of New Zealand, from 1980 to 1985. During the 1984 constitutional crisis, Beattie was nearly forced to dismiss the sitting Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon.

Judge official who presides over court proceedings

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on his or her interpretation of the law and his or her own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate.

1984 New Zealand constitutional crisis

The New Zealand constitutional crisis of 1984 was an important constitutional and political event in the history of New Zealand. The crisis arose following the 1984 general election, and was caused by a major currency crisis. The crisis led the incoming government to review New Zealand's constitutional structures, which resulted in the Constitution Act 1986.

Robert Muldoon 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Robert David Muldoon, also known as Rob Muldoon, was a New Zealand politician who served as the 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand, from 1975 to 1984, while Leader of the National Party.


Early life and family

Born in Sydney on 29 February 1924, Beattie was the son of Una Mary and Joseph Nesbitt Beattie. [1] He was brought up by his mother in Takapuna, and educated at Dilworth School in Auckland. [1]

Takapuna Suburb in Auckland Council, New Zealand

Takapuna is a central, coastal suburb of North Shore, Auckland, located in the northern North Island of New Zealand, at the beginning of a south-east-facing peninsula forming the northern side of the Waitematā Harbour. While very small in terms of population, it was the seat of the North Shore City Council before amalgamation into Auckland Council in 2010 and contains substantial shopping and entertainment areas, being considered the CBD of the North Shore.

Dilworth School

Dilworth School is an independent (private) full boarding school for boys in Auckland, New Zealand. The boys attending are on scholarships covering education and boarding costs, as the school is owned and operated by a charitable trust.

Auckland Metropolitan area in North Island, New Zealand

Auckland is a city in the North Island of New Zealand. The most populous urban area in the country, Auckland has an urban population of around 1,628,900. It is located in the Auckland Region—the area governed by Auckland Council—which includes outlying rural areas and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, resulting in a total population of 1,695,900. Auckland is a diverse, multicultural and cosmopolitan city, home to the largest Polynesian population in the world. A Māori-language name for Auckland is Tāmaki or Tāmaki-makau-rau, meaning "Tāmaki with a hundred lovers", in reference to the desirability of its fertile land at the hub of waterways in all directions.

In 1941, at age 17, he joined the army during World War II, and rose to the rank of sergeant before transferring to the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve as a sub-lieutenant. He played rugby union for New Zealand services teams in 1944 and 1945. [1]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Sergeant Military rank

Sergeant is a rank in many uniformed organizations, principally military and policing forces. The alternate spelling, "serjeant", is used in The Rifles and other units that draw their heritage from the British Light Infantry. Its origin is the Latin "serviens", "one who serves", through the French term "sergent".

The Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZNVR) is the volunteer reserve force of the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

In 1950, Beattie married Norma Margaret Sarah Macdonald, and the couple went on to have seven children. [1]

After the war, Beattie studied law at Auckland University College, and graduated LLB in 1949, before setting up in private practice as a barrister and solicitor. [1] He was made a Queen's Counsel in 1964, and served as president of the Auckland District Law Society in 1965. [1] In 1969, Beattie was appointed as a Supreme Court [2] judge (the old name for the High Court, not to be confused with the new final court of appeal, the Supreme Court of New Zealand), serving on the bench until 1980. [3]

University of Auckland University in New Zealand

The University of Auckland is the largest university in New Zealand, located in the country's largest city, Auckland. It is the highest-ranked university in the country, being ranked 85th worldwide in the 2018/19 QS World University Rankings. Established in 1883 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand, the university is made up of eight faculties; these are spread over six campuses. It has more than 40,000 students, and more than 30,000 "equivalent full-time" students.

Queens Counsel Jurist appointed by letters patent in some Commonwealth realms

A Queen's Counsel, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is a lawyer who is appointed by the monarch to be one of "Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law." The term is recognised as an honorific. The position exists in some Commonwealth jurisdictions around the world, but other Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or re-named it to eliminate monarchical connotations, such as "Senior Counsel" or "Senior Advocate". Queen's Counsel is an office, conferred by the Crown, that is recognised by courts. Members have the privilege of sitting within the bar of court.

High Court of New Zealand Court in New Zealand

The High Court of New Zealand is the superior court of New Zealand. It has general jurisdiction and responsibility, under the Senior Courts Act 2016, as well as the High Court Rules 2016, for the administration of justice throughout New Zealand. There are 18 High Court locations throughout New Zealand, plus one stand-alone registry.

Beattie chaired the 1977–78 Royal Commission on the Courts. [1] In 1977, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. [1]

Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal was a commemorative medal created in 1977 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The medal was physically identical in all realms where it was awarded, save for Canada, where it contained unique elements. As an internationally distributed award, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal holds a different place in each country's order of precedence for honours.


On 1 August 1980 Beattie was appointed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George and was granted the right to retain the title of The Honourable for life. [4] One of the roles of Governor-General is to act as Grand Prior of New Zealand, and Beattie was appointed as a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem [5] just prior to assuming the office of Governor-General. He was appointed as Governor-General by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of her New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, his term of office beginning on 6 November 1980 [6] [7] and continuing until 10 November 1985. [8] On leaving office, both Sir David and Lady Beattie were appointed as Companions of the Queen's Service Order: Sir David was recognised for his public services and Lady Beattie for community service. [9] In 1983, Beattie was awarded an honorary LLD by the University of Auckland. [10]


At the height of the Springbok tour of 1981, Beattie met a delegation from Halt All Racist Tours. Beattie promised to discuss their issues with the Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. Beattie was ridiculed by supporters of the tour, and as a result, the Prime Minister refused to speak to the Governor-General about his meeting with HART. [11]

Beattie again caused controversy when he met with protesters trying to petition the Queen at the 1983 Waitangi Day celebrations, after the Prime Minister had blocked all petitions. As a result, Muldoon declared that Beattie's term would not be extended beyond the traditional five-year tenure. [11]

Beattie's final controversial move was to import two Mercedes-Benz cars at the end of his term in 1985. At the time the Governor-General was exempt from paying taxes and thus exempt from paying import tariffs on cars as well. The tax benefit to Beattie was $85,000.00. [11]

Constitutional crisis

Following the 1984 general election, a political crisis arose. Muldoon declined to follow the instructions of the incoming Prime Minister, David Lange, as he was constitutionally required to do. [12] At the time, many felt that Muldoon should accede to Lange's demands. It has been stated that Beattie suggested to senior members of the National Party that he could dismiss Muldoon and appoint his deputy, Jim McLay, as Prime Minister before swearing in David Lange as Prime Minister (McLay was to replace Muldoon as leader later that year). However, such action proved unnecessary as Muldoon's cabinet threatened to remove him as leader themselves if he did not accept Lange's instructions. [13]

The crisis led to an inquiry that recommended passing the Constitution Act 1986.

Later life

After leaving office as governor-general, Beattie continued his involvement in public life, carrying out a number of government enquiries, and serving on company boards and sporting organisations. He prepared the Report on Science and Technology in 1986–87, the Report on the Police Complaints Authority in 1988 and was commissioner on the Fijian Courts in 1993. [1] His company directorships included the National Bank of New Zealand, Independent Newspapers Ltd and MFL Mutual Funds Ltd. [1] He was heavily involved in sports administration, serving as New Zealand Olympic Committee president for 11 years. He was president of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association in 1989 and was president of the Sports Foundation twice. His work was recognised with the award of the Olympic Order. He was also patron of the New Zealand Rugby Union, the New Zealand Boxing Association, the New Zealand Squash Rackets Association, and the Legion of Frontiersmen (NZ) Command. He was a keen golfer, tennis player and fisherman.

In 1990, Beattie was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal. [1]

Beattie died in Upper Hutt on 4 February 2001. Norma, Lady Beattie, died on 9 May 2018. [14]


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 61. ISBN   0-908578-34-2.
  2. "Appointment of Members of Rules Committee" (17 April 1969) 23 New Zealand Gazette 735.
  3. "Resignation of Judges of the High Court" (16 Oct 1980) 122 New Zealand Gazette 3063.
  4. "Honours and Awards" (31 July 1980) 90 New Zealand Gazette 2323.
  5. "No. 48456". The London Gazette . 18 December 1980. p. 17522.
  6. "Commission Appointing the Honourable Sir David Stuart Beattie, G.C.M.G., Q.C., to be Governor- General and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand" (6 November 1980) 130 New Zealand Gazette 3254.
  7. "Assumption of the Office of Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand by the Honourable Sir David Smart Beattie, G.C.M.G., Q.C." (6 November 1980) 130 New Zealand Gazette 3253.
  8. "Revocation of the Commission Appointing the Honourable Sir David Stuart Beattie, G.C.M.C, G.C.V.O., Q.S.O., Q.C, to be Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of New Zealand" (8 November 1985) 207 New Zealand Gazette 4895
  9. "Honours and Awards" (7 November 1985) 206 New Zealand Gazette 4893
  10. "Honorary graduates". University of Auckland Calendar 1984 (PDF). University of Auckland. 1984. p. 23. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  11. 1 2 3 Gavin Mclean (October 2006), The Governors, New Zealand Governors and Governors-General, Otago University Press, p. 281
  12. Cabinet Office Cabinet Manual 2008 at [6.12]
  13. Television New Zealand (10 July 1994). "TVNZ On Demand – Frontline – Four days in June".
  14. "Norma Beattie death notice". New Zealand Herald. 11 May 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Keith Holyoake
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir Paul Reeves