Richard 'King Dick' Seddon
In 1866, towards the height of summer with those glorious long evenings and the gold rush in full swing, a young man of only 20 summers disembarked onto the Hokitika wharf, his ambition to make enough money in order to bring his young fiancée over from Australia and make a new life for them both in New Zealand. By 1870 he had married, set up at least one business, and had started a family, all in the new settlement of Stafford which was in the centre of the Waimea goldfield.
And then came the Kumara Gold Rush.
Seddon led the way in in the town of Kumara, and with his organisational ability, soon had the town laid out, reserves established, and he was elected the first mayor of the new borough.
In 1879 he became a member of Parliament. It was a long journey to Wellington, by stagecoach, railway and steamer, and he made the trip regularly until the family moved lock, stock, barrel and even Fanny the pony and all the bantams to Wellington in 1895 (he had premier for 2 years by then). He was elected Premier (Prime Minister) of New Zealand in 1893 and served in this role for 13 years until his death, aged 60 years, in 1906. To this day, Richard Seddon is New Zealand's longest serving Premier.
Seddon developed a robust prime ministerial style and became known as ‘King Dick’ for his strong, populist leadership. He maintained tight control over his Cabinet, personally took charge of a large number of portfolios, including that of colonial treasurer from 1896, and thought that heads of Government departments should simply follow his instructions. He maintained a high public profile by touring the country regularly, addressing meetings, hearing deputations, and opening public works. He was also Minister of Native (Māori) Affairs until 1899 and made frequent visits to Māori tribes. Seddon was particularly noted for his promotion of the Old-age Pensions Act 1898 – the forerunner of New Zealand’s State-funded welfare system. He remained extremely popular and the Liberal Party (in which he served) won five elections under his leadership.
Richard John Seddon proudly represented the interest of West Coaster's (especially miners) for 28 years. His statesmanship was always guided and governed by a genuine love of humanity. He was a much loved and revered Kumara 'local' for 20 years. We hope that if King Dick were alive today, he would be proud of how Kumara has evolved and valiantly continues to thrive.
You can visit the site of his old home in Kumara. Visit the Walks and Attractions section for more information.