Sir George Laking

Sir George Laking
Laking: George
Day: Melvin
Oil on canvas
1200 x 825 mm

George Laking, (1912–2008)

Laking came from a humble Methodist family to become Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Prime Minister’s Department 1967 to 1972, Ombudsman from 1975 to 1977 and Chief Ombudsman from 1977 to 1984. He joined the public service at 16, studied part-time (as many did then) to graduate in Law and, notably bright, energetic and discreet, was invited to join the Prime Minister’s & External Affairs Department in 1940. It was an extraordinary time to have joined: the men he worked with were those who formed part of the myth of what would become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; he was, as he liked to say, in at its creation. He represented New Zealand at the highest level in London, Europe and Washington at critical and turbulent times; his access to high level officials and his powers of judgement, placed him well to advise government both when he was in Washington and later, as head of the diplomatic service. His term as Ombudsman – which included the 1981 Springbok tour – he carried out with humanity and conscientiousness, thereby ensuring that the office became cemented into the structures of our democracy. His contribution was recognised by the New Zealand honours system.