The first mention of Croatians in New Zealand is from 1858, from an expedition. It is unknown whether any stayed behind, but we do know that they brought back word of kauri gum findings, which brought many to work in the muddy trenches of New Zealand’s woods. The first immigrants were from Dalmatia, mostly from the area near Makarska and the northern section of Hvar. After World War II, political emigrants came to the area, as did those that were invited by their families, who helped them to get work. For example, we know that in 1966 and 1967, Fletcher Industries Ltd. Employed 238 qualified workers from Croatia. Before and after the Civil War, young, educated people left for New Zealand looking for job opportunities, and most went to Auckland. As with Australia, we can find streets with names inherited from their former owners.
Auckland, Nola Road in the Oratia suburb, which used to be known as Mala Podgora
In 1996, the Order of Merit national award was founded in New Zealand, which was awarded by Queen Elizabeth II for those with outstanding achievements and contributions to the crown and the people. There are five ranks of the award, with the very top reserved for just 30 knights or dames (GNZM) and 15 of their companions (KNZM/DNZM), with 40 regular companions (CNZM), 80 officers (ONZM, and 140 members (MNZM) below that.
Before the Order of Merit was established, the most common form of recognition was the Order of the British Empire (OBE), and the lower-rank Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). A large number of Croatians in New Zealand have been awarded some form of recognition by the Queen. In alphabetical order, they are:
Babich, Peter John, director of the Institute of Wine Making, who was awarded and MBE for his work in wine production, in 1989.
Batistich, Amelia, born Barbarich (1915. – 2004.), who was awarded a QSM in 1997 as the author of several books and stories about the lives of immigrants in New Zealand, published in English and Croatian. Her family came from Zaostrog.
Amelia Batistich is pictured with her mother, brother, and cousins on the left, and with her Olivetti typewriter, which she used to write all of her books, on the right.
Belich, Sir James was born in the north of New Zealand in 1927, where his parents, Marija and Jakov Belić, had moved to from Korčula. He was awarded an NZM in 1990, the Knight Bachelor award in 1991, and was knighted. He was the mayor of Wellington, and the president of UNICEF in New Zealand.
Sir James Belich and his son James, respectively.
Belich, James C. was born in Wellington, in 1956, and is a history professor, and the son of Sir James. He was awarded an ONZM for his history research in 2006. He is a professor at the Center for World History in Oxford, England, where he himself studied.
Bestic, Gladys was awarded a QSM in 1978, for her work with children suffering from cerebral palsy.
Borich, John Paul was awarded an NZM in 1990.
Brajkovich, Mathew George (1925 – 1992) was the director of the Institute of Wine Making, and was awarded a QBE for advancing the production of wine, in 1985. He was posthumously inducted into the New Zealand wine Hall of Fame.
Mathew Brajkovich (1925 – 1992)
Brajkovich, Melba Clare was awarded and MNZM for her work in wine production, in 2014.
Carono, Frana Grace, born Papich, was awarded a CNZM for her work in the community, in 2014.
Covic, Anthony, the mayor of Waitemate and honorary general consul of the Republic of Croatia, was awarded a QSM and the New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Dean, Miriam Rose was awarded a CNZM for her judiciary work, in 2011.
Fistonich, Sir George Vjeceslav, born in 1939, founded the Villa Maria winery, and for his contributions to New Zealand wine production he was awarded a DCNZM in 2005, and was knighted.
Sir George Vjeceslav Fistonich
Fitzmaurice, Betty, born Nola in 1930 (MNZM). She is an activist who was awarded for her service to the community as a member of the National Women’s Council and the Catholic Women’s League of New Zealand.
Franich, Mathew Thomas was awarded and MBE for his services to the community in 1959.
Mate Franić (1878 – 1971)
Fredatovich, Peter Dick was awarded an MBE for his work in the wine industry, in 1989.
Gerbich Hon., Fredrick Miroslav was a minister and Member of Parliament, and was awarded the New Zealand Medal for his public work in 1990, and an MBE in 1991.
Glavish (Glavaš), Rangimarie was awarded an ONZM for her services to the Maori community in 2011.
Grbavac, Joseph was awarded a QSM for his public work in 1979.
Grbich, Ina was awarded with a QSO in 2005.
Jelicich, Dorothy Catherine, a member of parliament, was awarded a QSO in 1986, a New Zealand Medal in 1990, and a New Zealand Suffrage Medal in 1993.
Jelicich, Stephen Albert, is an architect born in Sućuraj, on Hvar (1923-2015). He was awarded an ONZM for his work in architecture and contributions to the community. He is the president of the Dalmatian genealogical and historical society, and he writes about Dalmatian emigration to New Zealand.
Stephen Jelicich and his book
Jerkovich, Eric, a school principal, was awarded an MBE for his work in education, in 1985.
Jujnovich, Mark Joseph was awarded the New Zealand Medal as a representative at the Commonwealth Games in 1990.
Khan, Millie Cecilia, an Olympic athlete, was awarded a New Zealand Medal and an MBE for her contributions in shot put.
Klaricich, Rev. John, a priest, was awarded a QSO for his services to the Maori people in 1989, a New Zealand Medal in 1990, and a CNZM in 2013.
Kuzmicich, Stjepan Slavo R., a statistician, was awarded the New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Maich, Joseph Alexander, was awarded an MBE in 1979, for his work in education.
Marinovich, Mark Anthony (1908 – 1991), a fruit farmer, was awarded a QSM in 1985.
Mark Marinovich with his wife and daughter
Martinovich, Lucy was awarded the British Empire Medal for her public work.
Marusich, Cyril Anthony F. was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.
Matich, Maurice Dominic, a doctor who, for his contributions to medicine, was awarded a New Zealand Medal in 1990, and an OBE in 1991.
Matich, Nicholas, Royal New Zealand Airforce, a military veteran from World War II, who had taken part in 49 mission, only to be shot in his 50th, but who managed to survive. He was awarded a DFM/DSO.
Nicholas Matich, pilot.
Mazuran, Jure Tomin was awarded an OBE for his work in wine production, in 1972.
George Mazuran and wife.
Mercep, Ivan, architect, (1930 – 2014), was awarded an ONZM for architecture in 1997. He was known for his work as the project lead on the largest public building in the country, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarew in Wellington.
Ivan Mercep (1930 – 2014)
Te Papa (our place in Maori) in Wellington, designed by Ivan Mercep.
Mrkusic, Milan, painter (1925). His works are exhibited in every major art gallery, and he is considered to have founded abstract art in New Zealand. His greatest project was the glass façade of the Museum of New Zealand. His parents came over from Podgora. He was awarded an ONZM for painting in 1997.
Milan Mrkusic and his exhibit.
Nobilo, Frank Ivan Joseph was awarded a CNZM for his contributions to gold in 1998.
Nola, Andrew Michael was awarded a Queen Service Jubilee Medal in 1977.
Nola, Raymond was awarded a New Zealand Medal for fruit production in 1982.
Parun, Onny, was born in 1947, in Wellingtonu, and was awarded an OBE for tennis in 1982.
Pivac, Louise was awarded a QSM for services to the community in 2003.
Posa, Nikola was awarded the New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Purdue, Constance Miriam, born Šoljak, was awarded and MBE in 1975, and a New Zealand Suffrage Medal in 1993 for community work.
Radovan, Archibald Barry was awarded a DFSM for firefighting in 1990.
Radich, Peter Joseph, for his work on legal issues, was awarded a ONZM in 2012.
Rakich, Frederick George A., was awarded a QSM for social work in 1987.
Sarich, Andrew was awarded a QSO for services to the community in 2004.
Sarich, Katarina Puketapu was awarded a QSO for services to the community in 2004.
Shale, Marin, for his work as a firefighter, was awarded a QSM in 1984.
Simich Hon., Clem Rudolph, member of Parliament and minister of police, he was awarded the New Zealand medal for services to the community in 1990.
Srhoj, Milenko Vladimir, a mayor, was awarded a QSJM for services to the local community in 1997, an MBE in 1985, and a New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Stanic, B. A. was awarded a QSM and the Order of St. John in 1988, and a New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Stanic, Robert William, president of the St. John Ambulance, he was awarded a QSM in 1987, the New Zealand Medal in 1990, and a ONZM in 2012 for services to the local community.
Stanisich, Ivan was awarded a QSM for his public work in 1977.
Sunde, Victor Michael, for his work at growing and exporting fruit, was awarded an MBE in 1988 and a New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Szaszy, Dame Miraka, born Petricevich, for her services to the Maori and the Maori women’s volunteer league was awarded a QSM in 1975, a CBE in 1977, and a New Zealand Medal in 1990.
Talley, Sir Peter Ivan, (Talijancich) Honorary Consul of the Republic of Croatia, businessman of Motueka was awarded a NZOM and knighted for services to business and philantrophy in 2015.
Sir Peter Talley
Talyancich, Victor Andrew, for his business contributions and services to the Croatian community, was awarded a QSO in 2007.
Tolich, Sgt. Andria, for his work with the police, was awarded a QSJM in 1977, and a QSM in 1978.
Totich, John Mark (1882 – 1957) was the second Yugoslavian consul (1927 – 1946). He was awarded an MBE in 1954.
John Mark Totich
Trubuhovich, Ronald Valentine, a doctor (1929), was awarded an ONZM for his contributions to medicine in 1997. Through the efforts and skills of doctor Trubuhovich, who is originally from Gdinj on Hvar, the Intensive Care Unit at the Auckland hospital was declared the best in Austral-Asia. Aside from being the department head, he is the author of many papers, including ones on medical history.
Ron Trubuhovich, in private and as prodean
Vela, Sir Petar was awarded a KNZM for his contributions in horse rearing, which he still does today, and his horses continue to participate in races.
Sir Petar Vela
Vidulich, Michael was awarded a QSO for his contributions in music, in 2008.
Vodanovich, Ivan Henry M., was awarded an MBE for his contributions to rugby in 1992.
Vuksich, Rade (1925 – 1996) was awarded a QSM for contributions to the community in 1988. As a three year old, he came to New Zealand from Kokorići, near Vrgorac, with his parents. He was an entrepreneur and manager of several rugby clubs which he took to European tournaments.
Rade Vuksich (1925 – 1996)
Yelavich, Gregory Thoma, is a New Zealand Olympian in shooting, and bearer of a New Zealand Medal from 1990.
Yealvich, Ljubo Joseph was awarded a QSM for his public work in 1986.
Other New Zealand awards were given to the following Croatians:
Brljevic, Trevor Anthony, for his work in healthcare, was awarded the Order of St. John in 1990.
Gerbich, Jeffrey Gary was awarded a Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct in 1984.
Matich, Nicholas Joseph was awarded a DFC for his actions during the war in 1943, and a DSO in 1944.
Nobilo, Roy was awarded the Order of St. John medal in 1961 and a Meritorious Service Award for his work in healthcare in 1976.
Simich, Lt. Ronald, for his actions during the war, he was awarded a DFC in 1942.
Immigration to New Zealand intensified at the end of the 19th century due to kauri gum findings, as it was used in paint production, and only exists in this part of the world. It was the most important export in New Zealand for a long time, however, this resulted in a lot of deforestation, which became a problem over time. Croatians took part in this hard labor.
The price of transportation from Split to faraway destinations didn’t change for ten years.
From a resin digsite
In memory of the hard work and fates of Dalmatians in the Kaipar region, the Dalmatian Pioneer Trust in Dargaville had the Monument to the First Diggers erected in 1997.
Croatians encountered the Maori in New Zealand. At first they were surprised, as they hadn’t previously encountered people so very different from themselves. But as hospitality is hallmark of both peoples, the Maori and the Croatians managed to grow closer together. The Maori decided to call the Croatians the Tarara, according to how the Croatian’s language sounded to them. They shared a common interest in sports, and mixed marriages were no rarity to them, from which Croatians managed to retain their customs and traditions. Simon Petricevich had the following to say for the Maori Mana magazine:
Both peoples have a lot in common. They are both fond of food, loud banter, and a good time. Tarara (Croatians) are as fierce as the Maori, and enjoy their time in good company. Along those lines, they are both a family people, and this is precisely the strongest part of their bonds. They have almost the same relationship towards life and death; they cry and wail just as we do. This is why the Maori and Tarara get along so well. It is a happy combination.
The Croatian cultural society from Auckland and the Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust pushed to have a monument erected in Swanson, dedicated to the bond between the Maori and Croatians. The inscription on its plate is written in Maori, Croatian, and English.
THE BOND OF TWO PEOPLES WHO WALK TOGETHER BEFORE GOD
The monument was unveiled in 1999 by governor Sir Michael Hardy Boys and Mira Szaszy Petricevich.