Sir David Beattie

Sir David Beattie.jpg
14th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
6 November 1980 – 10 November 1985
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterRobert 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.

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]

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]

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

Legal career

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]

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


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]


Coat of arms of David Beattie
David Beatie Arms.svg
The arms of David Beattie consist of:
Upon a wreath argent and gules, issuant from a circlet of estoiles azure and Pohutukawa (metrosideros exelsa) blossom a Piwakawaka fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa) proper.
Gules, on a chevron engrailed argent between three full bottomed wigs a royal crown between two bees proper.
Dexter: A male athlete proper wearing shorts and a singlet sable. Sinister: A judge of the High Court of New Zealand in full ceremonial robes proper.
Pro civitate (For the Nation)
Other elements
Mantling gules and argent.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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. ^ a b c 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.

External links

  • Official biography
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Keith Holyoake
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir Paul Reeves