16 Feb 2011

Respected historian Dame Judith Binney dies

10:28 pm on 16 February 2011

One of New Zealand's most respected historians and writers, Dame Judith Binney, has died. She was 70.

Dame Judith died at her home in Auckland late on Tuesday night.

Born in New South Wales in 1940, Dame Judith arrived in New Zealand in 1947 and grew up in Auckland.

She specialised in the history of Maori and Pakeha engagement and produced acclaimed biographies and histories.

Dame Judith believed it was important that New Zealand's story should be known, making it accessible to the general public with her well-written and well-researched books.

She won several awards for her work, including the 2010 New Zealand Post Book of the Year and General Non-fiction Award for Encircled Lands: Te Urewera 1820-192.

The book documents Tuhoe's quest for self-government of their lands, granted to them in law more than a century ago.

The Tuhoe people honoured her by bestowing a Maori name, Tomairangi o Te Aroha.

Dame Judith was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006, was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and an inaugural Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of Humanities.

She served on the Waitangi Tribunal and the Historic Places Trust Board.

Tribute to mentor

Historian Claudia Orange says her mentor Judith Binney has left a legacy that will spark new research and understanding for decades.

Dr Orange says Dame Judith had an infectious vitality and enthusiasm for history - and many of her students went on to do important work of their own.

Dame Judith has left behind a large body of research. Dr Orange says that is a huge legacy and other students and historians will find threads to start new research for decades to come.