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Chronology of Reserve Bank Governors

Information on the past and present Governors of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

The role of the Governor

The role of the Governor (or chief executive) of the Reserve Bank has changed and grown since the Bank was established in 1934. 

Today, the Governor is accountable for the Bank’s performance in maintaining price stability, promoting a sound and efficient financial system, and meeting the currency needs of the public but retains statutory independence as to how these key outcomes are achieved.

Adrian Orr — 2018 to present

Adrian Orr was first appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in March 2018. He has been reappointed for a second 5-year term effective from March 2023. 

Previously, Mr Orr was Chief Executive Officer at the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. During his time there he won many awards including the Deloitte IPANZ Improving Performance through Leadership Excellence Award in 2016, and Asian Investor’s Individual Contribution to Institutional Investment Award in 2017.

Adrian Orr — 2018 to present

Before that he was Deputy Governor and Head of Financial Stability for the Reserve Bank. Adrian has also held the positions of Chief Economist at Westpac Banking Corporation, Chief Manager of the Economics Department at the Reserve Bank and Chief Economist at the National Bank of New Zealand. He has also worked at the New Zealand Treasury and the OECD, based in Paris.

Mr Orr graduated from the University of Waikato in 1983 with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in Economics and Geography. He also has a Master of Development Economics from the University of Leicester, England, graduating with distinction in 1985.

Read more about Adrian Orr

Grant Spencer

Grant Spencer — Acting Governor October 2017 to March 2018

Grant Spencer was appointed as Acting Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in October 2017 to hold the Governor role for 6 months to cover the post-election period while the new Government made a permanent appointment.

Mr Spencer stepped into the Governor’s position from his previous role as Deputy Governor/Head of Financial Stability which he held for 10 years. Prior to that, he held roles as the Assistant Governor and Head of Economics at the Bank; senior treasury and strategy positions at ANZ Banking Group; and Alternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Graeme Wheller

Graeme Wheeler — Governor 2012 to 2017

Graeme Wheeler was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in September 2012.

Mr Wheeler was employed at the World Bank from 1997 until 2010. During this time, his roles included Managing Director Operations (2006 to 2010), and Vice-President and Treasurer (2001 to 2006).

As Managing Director, Mr Wheeler led the World Bank's interactions with the IMF on the Global Financial Crisis and represented the World Bank at the G8, G20, Development Committee, International Monetary and Financial Committee, and Financial Stability Forum. He was awarded the World Bank Staff Association Good Manager Award for his leadership.

Previously, Mr Wheeler worked at the New Zealand Treasury as Deputy Secretary and Treasurer of the Debt Management Office (1993 to 1997). He also ran his own advisory business in the United States from 2010.

Dr Alan Bollard

Alan E Bollard — Governor 2002 to 2012

Dr Alan Bollard was appointed as Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in September 2002.

Dr Bollard's previous positions include Secretary to the Treasury (1998 to 2002), Chairman of the New Zealand Commerce Commission (1994 to 1998), and Director of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (1987 to 1994).

Dr Bollard has also worked as an economist in a variety of positions in the United Kingdom and the South Pacific.

Dr Bollard has written several books on the New Zealand economy, produced a computer simulation game called Oikonomos, and helped rebuild the famous Phillips hydraulic, economic simulation model, ‘the Moniac’.

After his second 5-year term as Governor, Dr Bollard left the Reserve Bank in September 2012 to become the Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat based in Singapore.

Dr Donald T Brash

Donald T Brash — Governor 1988 to 2002

Dr Donald Brash was appointed as Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in 1988.

Born in Wanganui, Dr Brash completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Canterbury University with a double major in economics and history. He obtained his Master of Arts degree with first class honours, majoring in economics while working for the Reserve Bank in 1962. His thesis was on New Zealand's external debt-servicing capacity. He then obtained a PhD in economics from the Australian National University.

Dr Brash's previous roles included Reserve Bank of New Zealand (1961 to 1962), the World Bank (1966 to 1971), Broadbank/Fletcher Challenge (1971 to 1982), the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority (1982 to 1986), and Managing Director of the Trust Bank group (1986 to 1988).

He resigned as Governor in 2002 to stand as a list candidate for Member of Parliament in the general election held that year.

Sir Spencer Russell

Spencer T Russell — Governor 1984 to 1988

Sir Spencer Thomas Russell was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand on 18 May 1984.

He previously held the position of Director and Chief Executive of the National Bank of New Zealand, having spent his commercial banking career there.

Sir Russell was a past President of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and a former member of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce Executive Council. He also served for 10 years on the National Executive of the Returned Services Association. He was President of the Bankers' Institute of New Zealand, Chairman of the Wellington Area Health Advisory Committee and a member of the Wellington Diocesan Board of Trustees. He was also a Trustee of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc).

Sir Russell retired in 1988 and died in July 1995.

Mr Dick L Wilks

Dick L Wilks — Governor 1982 to 1984

Dick Wilks was born in Taumarunui and educated in New Plymouth. He began his career with the Reserve Bank in 1950 after graduating from Auckland University in 1949.

During his career, Mr Wilks served as Deputy Secretary for three years and Deputy Chief Cashier for two years before being appointed Chief Cashier in 1967. He held this position for 6 years before becoming Executive Adviser to the Bank in 1973.

In 1977, Mr Wilks was appointed Deputy Governor, and in February 1982 was appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank. Mr Wilks died on 18 December 1985.



Raymond W. R. White — Governor 1977 to 1982

Mr White joined the Reserve Bank in 1947, after war service in the Army and RNZAF between 1942 to 1944.  In 1954 he was seconded to the Bank of England for 1 year. He was appointed Assistant Cashier in 1961 and Deputy Chief Cashier the following year.  He became Deputy Governor in 1967 and Governor in  February 1977.  

Mr White was outstanding in his contribution to the activities of the Bank especially in the economic and monetary areas.  He is acknowledged for his considerable efforts to promote an improved understanding of inflation, accounting and the concept of indexation of financial assets.

In 1977 he was appointed President of the New Zealand Bankers’ Institute, the first non-trading banker to be so honoured.

Sir Alan Roberts Low — Governor 1967 to 1977

Sir Alan Low was born in Blenheim. He went to high school in Timaru and graduated with a Masters of Economics from the University of Canterbury.
Sir Alan spent his working life with the bank. He joined in 1938, became Assistant Governor in 1960, Deputy Governor in 1962 and Governor in 1967.  He was created Knight Bachelor in 1977.
Sir Alan remained Governor until he retired in 1977. He died on 18 April 1999.

Mr Gilbert Wilson

Gilbert Wilson — Governor 1962 to 1967

Gilbert Wilson was born in New Plymouth and educated in Auckland. He began his banking career with the National Bank in 1924 and joined the Reserve Bank 11 years later in 1935.

In 1953, Mr Wilson became the second person to hold the position of Chief Cashier, a position he held for 3 years before becoming Deputy Governor in 1956. In 1962, he became the first Governor who began his career in the Reserve Bank in a non-executive position.

Mr Wilson retired in 1967 and died on 29 March 1994.

Edward Coldham Fussell — Governor 1948 to 1962

Edward Fussell started his banking career with the National Bank in 1919. In 1934, he became the private secretary to Sir James Grose — the General Manager of the National Bank. Mr Fussell was chosen by Leslie Lefeaux as his successor. He became an assistant to the Governor in 1939, and was appointed Deputy Governor in 1941. Mr Fussell became Governor in 1948 and he remained Governor until he retired in 1962.

William Fox Longley Ward — Governor 1941 to 1944

William Ward joined the Reserve Bank in 1934, after working at the Bank of Australasia, and as becoming Chairman of the Wellington Mortgagers Relief Commission. He became Acting Governor in 1941, and was appointed Governor 3 years later in 1944. Mr Ward was appointed as Governor for 7 years, but he died in 1948 while still in office.

Mr Leslie Lefeaux

Leslie Lefeaux – Governor 1934 to 1940

Leslie Lefeaux arrived in New Zealand in 1934 to become the first Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Before this appointment, he was Assistant to the Governors at the Bank of England.

During his 7-year term in the formative years of the Reserve Bank, Mr Lefeaux was concerned with establishing the relative responsibilities of the government and the Reserve Bank. His signature appears on the first issue of Reserve Bank notes, because they were ordered before he left England, and at that time, he was the first appointed official of the Reserve Bank.

He completed his term of office in 1940, and remained in New Zealand for several years until his return to England in 1946. Mr Lefeaux died in 1962.