Chris Laidlaw

Christopher Robert Laidlaw (born 16 November 1943) is a New Zealand politician and former rugby union player, Rhodes Scholar, public servant, diplomat and radio host.

Chris Laidlaw
Chris Laidlaw.jpg
Laidlaw in 2007
Chairperson of the Wellington Regional Council
In office
30 June 2015 – 13 October 2019
Preceded byFran Wilde
Succeeded byDaran Ponter
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wellington Central
In office
12 December 1992 – 6 November 1993
Preceded byFran Wilde
Succeeded byseat abolished
Personal details
Born (1943-11-16) 16 November 1943 (age 76)
Dunedin, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
RelationsSue Kedgley (sister-in-law)
Alma materUniversity of Otago
Rugby career
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight78 kg (172 lb)
SchoolKing's High School
Rugby union career
Position(s) Halfback
All Black No. 641
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Otago University
Oxford University
Provincial / State sides
Years Team Apps (Points)
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1963–70 New Zealand 20 (12)

Early lifeEdit

Laidlaw was born in Dunedin and schooled at King's High School from 1957 to 1961, where he played in the first rugby team.[1]

Laidlaw attended Otago University from 1962 to 1966, after which he went overseas with the All Blacks. In 1969 he took up his Rhodes Scholarship at Merton College, Oxford.

Rugby union careerEdit

Described as a rugby prodigy, Laidlaw was immediately selected for the University A side in 1962 upon leaving school. Such was the impact of his play that during the same year he played for an Otago representative side, for a South Island regional side, and for New Zealand Universities. Personal training sessions with former All Black Charlie Saxton endowed Laidlaw with "a marvellous pass and an accurate kick from forward base".[1]

Not yet 20, Laidlaw made his debut for the All Blacks in 1963 on their tour of Britain and France. Although chosen as reserve to the incumbent half-back and vice-captain, Kevin Briscoe, Laidlaw's performances catapulted him into selection for a test against France and a match against the Barbarians.[1]

In all, Laidlaw played 57 matches for the All Blacks, including 20 internationals. He captained the team on three occasions: a test against Australia in 1969 and games against Victoria and South-West Africa in 1969 and 1970, respectively.

Civil servantEdit

In 1972, Laidlaw joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served as Assistant to Commonwealth Secretary-General Sonny Ramphal who he described in 1999 as "far and away the most brilliant man I have ever met."[2]

In 1977 during a diplomatic cocktail party in New York Laidlaw says the then NZ Prime Minister Robert Muldoon drunkenly harassed him, jabbing his finger in Laidlaw's chest. Muldoon was angry about Laidlaw's public comments criticising apartheid. Laidlaw says he grabbed Muldoon by the lapels and propelled him against the wall saying something like "If you ever touch me again I'll knock your teeth out." Muldoon glared at him, turned on his heel and walked out.[3]

In 1986, Laidlaw became New Zealand's first resident High Commissioner to Harare, representing New Zealand's interests throughout Africa. In 1989, Laidlaw was appointed Race Relations Conciliator.

Political careerEdit

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1992–1993 43rd Wellington Central Labour

Laidlaw won the Wellington Central by-election in 1992, following the election of Fran Wilde to the Wellington mayoralty. Labour leader Mike Moore designated Laidlaw Labour's spokesman for Tourism, Disarmament and Ethnic Affairs.[4] He failed to win re-election (to the renamed Wellington-Karori electorate) in the 1993 general election, losing to National's Pauline Gardiner.

Laidlaw is a supporter of a New Zealand republic. In 1997 he published remarks allegedly made to him by Prince Charles during his visit of that year, which appeared to show the Prince implicitly supports a New Zealand republic. Laidlaw later published the claim in his book Rights of Passage, and again in his The New Zealand Herald column in March 2005, during Prince Charles' visit. No comment was made by the Prince as to the veracity of the comments.[5]

Wellington regional councillorEdit

Laidlaw was a councillor and chair of the Wellington Regional Council and represented the Wellington constituency. He was elected at the 2007 local elections with 24,757 votes, the greatest number of votes for any candidate that year.[6] He was re-elected in 2010 with 24,838 votes,[7] in 2013 and in 2016. He succeeded Fran Wilde as chair of the Regional Council in 2015 and was re-elected as chair in 2016.[8] Laidlaw came under significant pressure over changes made to the Wellington bus network in July 2018. When he stated to a parliamentary select committee that "there was essentially nothing they would do differently if they could do the bus overhaul again", the packed audience responded with loud laughter.[9] The media subsequently adopted the term "bustastrophe" for the situation.[10][11][12][13]

In July 2019 Laidlaw announced that he would not be standing for re-election to the Wellington Regional Council in the October 2019 local elections.[14] Following the 2019 election Laidlaw was succeeded as chair by Daran Ponter of the Labour Party.[15]


Laidlaw hosted Radio New Zealand National's Sunday Morning programme from 2000 to 2013.[16]


Laidlaw is married to prominent New Zealand art curator Helen Kedgley, and is a brother-in-law of former Green MP Sue Kedgley. He has two children.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Chris Laidlaw". New Zealand Rugby Museum. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ Laidlaw, Chris (1999). Rights of Passage: Beyond the New Zealand identity crisis. Auckland, New Zealand: Hodder Moa Beckett. p. 80.
  3. ^ Laidlaw, p. 103.
  4. ^ "Laidlaw fills posts of predecessor". The New Zealand Herald. 28 January 1993. p. 5.
  5. ^ "The time for NZ to go republic is now". Sunday Star-Times. 14 October 2018. p. A2.
  6. ^ "Election results 2007". Greater Wellington Regional Council. 15 October 2007. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 16 October 2007.
  7. ^ "2010 Results » Greater Wellington Regional Council". Greater Wellington Regional Council. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  8. ^ "Chris Laidlaw chosen as chairman of Greater Wellington Regional Council". The Dominion Post. 26 October 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  9. ^ Hunt, Tom; George, Damian (27 September 2018). "Regional Council says it would do little differently if it could roll out Wellington's new bus network again". Stuff. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  10. ^ Armstrong, Dave (16 April 2019). "The muppet show: Who are the councillors responsible for Wellington's bus disaster?". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  11. ^ Armstrong, Dave (7 May 2019). "Never on a Sunday - the new rule for Wellington buses". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  12. ^ "Citing desperation, Wellington suburbs consider bus charters as 'bustastrophe' continues". 1 News. 22 April 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  13. ^ Campbell, Georgina (31 December 2019). "The issues that got Wellington's knickers in a twist". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  14. ^ "GWRC Chairman Chris Laidlaw rules himself out". Stuff. 19 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Analysis: New Greater Wellington Regional Council chair romps in". The New Zealand Herald. 30 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Chris Laidlaw". Radio New Zealand National. 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2014.

External linksEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Fran Wilde
Member of Parliament for Wellington Central
Constituency abolished, recreated in 1996
Title next held by
Richard Prebble
Political offices
Preceded by
Fran Wilde
Chair of the Wellington Regional Council
Succeeded by
Daran Ponter