New Zealand International Film Festival director Bill Gosden will retire in 2019.

The festival announced today that Gosden will wrap up his role due to health reasons next March after 40 years in the role.

"This year we have celebrated 50 years of NZIFF in Auckland and there, in Wellington and over the country as a whole seen the best attendances ever. Now, sadly, we accept Bill's decision to retire at the end of March for health reasons," said Catherine Fitzgerald, Chair of the New Zealand Film Festival Trust.

"Bill, over 40 years, has a created not only the New Zealand International Film Festival as an unmissable annual event, but also audiences with an appetite to be surprised and rewarded by the best of the world's cinema. We will all miss him and what he has brought to our cultural life during his tenure, and wish him the very best."

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The Trust oversees the non-profit event that first employed Gosden in 1979. He began a curation/direction role in 1981 and his first curated national festival took place in 1984.

"I look back with pride on the astounding array of national and international film-making that has found its first New Zealand audience at NZIFF," said Gosden.

"I leave with great confidence that whoever steps up next will be working with a remarkable and cohesive crew who love NZIFF and know it backwards," he said.

The Trust is undertaking an international recruitment to replace Gosden.