Harry Robson Lake (29 September 1911 – 21 February 1967), a New Zealand politician, served as Minister of Finance for six years in the second National government, in the 1960s. He died of a heart attack when only 55 years old.

Harry Lake
Harry Lake.jpg
31st Minister of Finance
In office
12 December 1960 – 21 February 1967
Prime MinisterKeith Holyoake
Preceded byArnold Nordmeyer
Succeeded byRobert Muldoon
Personal details
Born29 September 1911
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died21 February 1967(1967-02-21) (aged 55)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political partyNational

Early lifeEdit

Lake was born in Christchurch. Lake was father to two children, and grandfather to three. He was educated at the University of Canterbury, gaining a degree in commerce. He established an accountancy practice in 1943.

Political careerEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1951–1954 30th Lyttelton National
1954–1957 31st Lyttelton National
1960–1963 33rd Fendalton National
1963–1966 34th Fendalton National
1966–1967 35th Fendalton National

After holding a number of roles within the National Party's administration, he stood as the party's candidate for the Riccarton seat in the 1949 election.[1] Riccarton was regarded as a "safe" Labour Party seat, and Lake was unsuccessful.[2] In the 1951 election, however, Lake won the seat of Lyttelton, which had been held by Labour for nearly forty years. While Lake held his seat in the 1954 election, he lost it in the 1957 election to Norman Kirk (who later became Prime Minister).

In the 1960 election, which National won, Lake returned to Parliament as the MP for Fendalton (a safe National seat). He was immediately elevated to Cabinet by Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, becoming minister of finance. As Lake possessed no ministerial experience before this point, his immediate appointment to one of the most powerful ministerial posts was remarkable. In recognition of his lack of experience, however, Lake was officially ranked sixth in Cabinet, a lower position than a minister of finance would normally expect.

Despite holding one of the most powerful political positions in the country, Lake never had a high public profile. In keeping with Holyoake's desire to maintain the status quo, Lake's tenure as minister of finance was relatively uneventful, with the primary focus being on stability. In 1964, Lake suffered his first heart attack, which reduced his energy somewhat but did not impair his ability to perform his role.

At the end of 1966, New Zealand encountered economic difficulties as the result of a collapse in export prices. Lake did not have a chance to respond to this problem, however — in February 1967, he suffered a second heart attack, and died.[3] He was succeeded as minister of finance by Robert Muldoon, and as MP for Fendalton by Eric Holland.


  1. ^ Gustafson 1986, p. 325.
  2. ^ "The General Election, 1949". National Library. 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  3. ^ Obituary in The Press (Christchurch) of 22 February 1967


  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8.
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Arnold Nordmeyer
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Robert Muldoon
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Terry McCombs
Member of Parliament for Lyttelton
Succeeded by
Norman Kirk
Preceded by
Jack Watts
Member of Parliament for Fendalton
Succeeded by
Eric Holland