Jack Ridley (engineer)

John Wallace Ridley QSO ED (29 April 1919 – 23 August 2006) was a New Zealand Member of Parliament for Taupo in the North Island, a Rhodes Scholar and a civil engineer. He was notable for his contributions to hydro engineering.

Jack Ridley
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Taupo
In office
25 November 1978 – 28 November 1981
Preceded byRay La Varis
Succeeded byRoger McClay
In office
25 November 1972 – 29 November 1975
Preceded byRona Stevenson
Succeeded byRay La Varis
Personal details
John Wallace Ridley

29 April 1919
Invercargill, New Zealand
Died23 August 2006
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Avis Reed
(m. 1949)
Alma materCanterbury University College
University College, Oxford
ProfessionCivil engineer

Early yearsEdit

Ridley was born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1919. He attended Timaru Boys' High School and then studied engineering at Canterbury University College in Christchurch. After the Second World War (in which he served as an engineering officer) he spent two years, 1946–1947, as a Rhodes Scholar at University College, University of Oxford, graduating with an MA (Honours) in engineering science. He married Avis (née Reed) in 1949.[1]

Ridley was a civil engineer of dams for power schemes like Benmore Dam in the South Island and Wairakei in the North Island, working for the Ministry of Works and Development. For his contributions, he was awarded with the Fulton Gold Medal, at the time the highest award of the New Zealand Institution of Engineers.[1]

Political careerEdit

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1972–1975 37th Taupo Labour
1978–1981 39th Taupo Labour

Ridley was the MP for Taupo for six years from 1972 to 1975, and from 1978 to 1981.[2]

He was once asked why there were so few engineers in Parliament, to which he replied: "Because engineers are realists and politicians are idealists."[1] In 1975 his wife Avis unsuccessfully sought the Labour Party candidacy for the Onehunga electorate alongside 26 other aspirants following the retirement of Hugh Watt, but she lost to Frank Rogers.[3]


In October 1983 Ridley contested the Labour nomination for the new Tongariro electorate but was unsuccessful, losing to Noel Scott. Ridley disputed the selection process afterwards, claiming that the procedure had been manipulated by the party hierarchy who were determined to select Scott and estimating that he won 250 of the 350 floor votes from the members opposed to less than 20 for Scott. The party president, Jim Anderton, refuted Ridley's claims stating that Labour's selection processes were democratically sound and the decision was final.[4] In the 1984 Ridley stood for the Tongariro electorate as an Independent but was not successful. A large proportion of the Tongariro electorate had been part of Taupo.[5][6] The city of Taupo itself however had become part of Waikaremoana.[4]


Ridley died in Auckland on 23 August 2006.[7] He was survived by his wife and four sons.[1]

Honours and awardsEdit

In 1990, Ridley was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal. In the 1998 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for public services.[8]


  • Ridley, Jack (1989). Towards a South Pacific Federation : the Tasman challenge. Tauranga: Moana Press. ISBN 9780908705573. OCLC 21518871.


  1. ^ a b c d Pickmere, Arnold (16 September 2006). "Obituary: Jack Ridley". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  2. ^ Wilson 1985.
  3. ^ "Local Contractor Beats Big Names in Onehunga Selection". The New Zealand Herald. 18 August 1975. p. 3.
  4. ^ a b "Labour ex-MP disputes selection". The Evening Post. 19 October 1983. p. 26.
  5. ^ McRobie & Levine 2002, p. 117.
  6. ^ Ridley's letter to Mel Courtney, 22 July 1984
  7. ^ "Obituaries — John (Jack) Wallace Ridley QSO". New Zealand Parliament. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Queen's Birthday honours list 1998". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 1 June 1998. Retrieved 2 July 2021.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Wood, G. Anthony, ed. (1996). Ministers and Members: In the New Zealand Parliament. Dunedin: Otago University Press.
  • From Muldoon to Lange: New Zealand Elections in the 1980s by Alan McRobie and Steven Levine (2002, MC Enterprises, Rangiora)
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Taupo

Succeeded by
Preceded by Succeeded by