Who was the greatest of them all? It was a natural question to ask after Herald editors marked the paper's 150th birthday by retrospectively selecting New Zealanders of the Year for every year since the paper was founded in 1863.

But the editors quickly concluded that, even though Michael Joseph Savage had been the paper's man of the 20th century, no one person could sensibly be called "the greatest".

Instead, we chose 10 people whose enormous contributions to national life, in our opinion, make them stand out as being genuinely worthy of the term "great".

Our criteria included influence in making the nation what it is today. But we also aimed to recognise those who had outstanding ability to inspire the nation, to give voice to the people's aspirations and, through the lives they led, to embody the ideal national character.


From a shortlist of 25 selected from the original New Zealanders of the Year, we finally arrived at our top 10.

They come from all walks of life and represent a wide range of skills, achievement and endeavour, from politics, to economics, to social reform and culture, as well as including great adventurers and sports people.

They are like 10 great peaks supporting the nation's idea of itself, and anyone who wants to understand where New Zealand came from and where it wants to go would do well to start by reading their life stories.

Click here to see our interactive feature on the ten greatest New Zealanders of the past 150 years.