Manuera Benjamin Riwai (Ben) Couch

Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu

1925 - 1996

Manuera Benjamin Riwai Couch was born in Rapaki and educated at Sydenham Primary School, Pirinoa Primary School, Otaki Māori Boys College and Christchurch Technical College. He was an Airman Pilot with RNZAF and worked as a building contractor for twelve years and an agriculture contractor for eighteen years. He was Chair of the Wairarapa Māori Executive, a member of the Iparoa District Council and a member of the New Zealand Māori Council. He became a JP in 1962. Couch was chair of the Southern Māori electorate for ten years, candidate for Southern Māori in 1963 and National Member of Parliament for Wairarapa from He was Postmaster-General and Minister of Māori Affairs from 1978-81, and Minister of Māori Affairs and Minister of Police from He was Chair of the Parliamentary Māori Select Committee. He was on the Runanganui O Ngāti Kahungunu Executive Board, worked with the Pirinoa School Committee, Pirinoa Māori Committee, and has been a Welfare and Probation Officer. He was an All Black rep and N.Z. Māori rep. He also was a rep player for Tuhirangi, Greytown, Gladstone and Martinborough Football Clubs, and was Māori rep on the N.Z. Rugby Union. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the New Zealand 1990 Medal. He was permitted to retain the pre-nominal "the Honourable" in 1984 for services as a member of the Executive Council. In 1991 he was awarded the QSO for public servics

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence with the Hon. Ben Couch, 12 Dec. 1992.
  • "National Māori Candidates." Tu Tangata 3 (1981): 9.
  • New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa 1998 Edition. Auckland, N.Z.: New Zealand Who’s Who Publications, 1998. 826.


  • "National - Standing Tall." Tu Tangata 3 (1981): 13.
  • Couch writes that "[t]he future of the Māori lies in increasing self-reliance by marrying the best of the new world to the best of the old". He also discusses various National Party policies to assist Māori in land development including Māori Affairs Department loans to Māori farmers, educational assistance to Māori youth and technical and trade training.
  • Other

  • Foreword. Te Māori: Māori Art from New Zealand Collections. Ed. Sidney Moko Mead. Auckland, N.Z.: Heinemann in association with The American Federation of Arts, 1984. 12.
  • Written as the Honourable Mr. Manuera Benjamin Riwai Couch, Minister of Māori Affairs, New Zealand. Text by Sidney Moko Mead, Agnes Sullivan, David R. Simmons, Anne Salmond, Bernie Kernot and Piri Sciascia. Photographs by Athol McCredie. In this state and personal endorsement of the Te Māori exhibition, Couch asserts the importance of the "wairua Māori" of the Te Māori taonga. He also conveys on behalf of Māori leaders that "Te Māori is [Māori] people’s spiritual offering to the world, a godly gift that may help us all find better ways for mankind to live in peace and harmony."
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Address to the Māori Land-use National Conference, 30 January 1981." Ngā Tumanako: Māori Land-use National Conference. Takitimu Marae, Wairoa. 29 January- 1 February 1981. Ed. and introd. Ranginui Walker [Auckland, N.Z.]: Centre for Continuing Education, U of Auckland, N.Z., 1981. 5-6.
  • Given as the Minister of Māori Affairs. While affirming the spiritual link between Māori and their land, Couch urges wise and practical use of the land so Māori can continue to be sustained by it.


  • "National Māori Candidates." Tu Tangata 3 (1981): 8-9.