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13 Most Famous People From New Zealand

New Zealand has nurtured many influential figures over the years. This article features the most famous people from New Zealand whose contributions span various fields, including film, literature, sports, and science. These individuals have made significant impacts in their respective areas and brought global recognition to their country.

List of 13 Most Famous People from New Zealand

Below is a list of the 13 most famous people from New Zealand, each of whom has made a notable mark worldwide:

1. Sir Edmund Hillary

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand

Sir Edmund Hillary is one of the most famous people from New Zealand. He is renowned for being one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. His daring expedition, alongside Tenzing Norgay, marked a monumental achievement in the history of human adventure and exploration. His philanthropic efforts post-Everest also helped improve the lives of the Nepalese people, establishing schools and hospitals in remote areas.

2. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa stands as a luminary in the world of opera. Her soprano voice has graced many of the most prestigious opera houses around the globe. Her career milestones include a celebrated performance at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and numerous awards highlighting her contribution to music. In addition, she mentors young singers through her foundation, fostering new talent in the operatic tradition.

3. Peter Jackson

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General

Director Peter Jackson is one of the most famous people from New Zealand in the film industry. He is best known for his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. His films garnered international acclaim and many awards, including Oscars. They also spotlighted New Zealand’s landscapes, significantly boosting tourism. Jackson’s innovative use of CGI and commitment to epic storytelling continue to influence filmmakers globally.

4. Sir Richard Hadlee

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: Iambicpentameter186

A legendary figure in cricket, Sir Richard Hadlee is often considered one of the greatest fast bowlers and all-rounders in the history of the sport. His achievements on the cricket field have brought him numerous accolades, including being the first bowler to reach 400 test wickets. Off the field, Hadlee has contributed to cricket as a coach and selector, and his legacy is celebrated in New Zealand cricket.

5. Eleanor Catton

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: NZatFrankfurt

Eleanor Catton achieved international fame following her Man Booker Prize win for her novel ‘The Luminaries’ in 2013. She is the youngest-ever winner of the award. Her intricate narrative set during the New Zealand gold rush showcases her storytelling prowess and deep understanding of human behaviours. 

Her work contributes significantly to New Zealand’s literary prestige on the world stage. Thus, she is one of the most famous people from New Zealand.

6. Ernest Rutherford

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: United States Library of Congress

Ernest Rutherford, often called the father of nuclear physics, revolutionised science with his discovery of the atomic nucleus. His groundbreaking work earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. 

Rutherford’s theories and experiments are foundational to modern physics, making him a pivotal figure in scientific history and one of the most famous people from New Zealand.

7. Lorde

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: Raph_PH

Ella Yelich-O’Connor, popularly known as Lorde, is a singer-songwriter. She burst onto the international music scene with her hit single ‘Royals,’ which won two Grammy Awards and catapulted her to global fame. Her distinctive voice and introspective songwriting style have made her a unique figure in contemporary music. Her work continues to influence a broad audience worldwide. This establishes her name as one of the most famous people from New Zealand.

8. Steven Adams

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: Keith Allison

Steven Adams has made his mark as one of the most famous people from New Zealand in the world of professional basketball. Playing in the NBA, he is known for his strong defensive skills and has become a key player for the Memphis Grizzlies. His impact extends off the court, where he is praised for his community involvement and charitable efforts.

9. Jane Campion

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: New Zealand Government, Office of the Governor-General

Acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion, known for her Oscar-winning film ‘The Piano,’ is celebrated for her powerful storytelling and pioneering role in cinema. Her work, often exploring themes of sexuality and power, has brought her critical acclaim.

In addition to her artistic achievements, Campion’s career has been marked by her pioneering role in advocating for greater representation of women in cinema. As a prominent female director in a predominantly male-dominated industry, she has served as a role model and inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, particularly women, encouraging them to pursue their creative ambitions despite the challenges they may face.

10. Sir William Pickering

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: NASA

A key figure in the American space race, Sir William Pickering was a New Zealand-born engineer who played a pivotal role in the development of the U.S. space program. Under his leadership, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) became a major player in the exploration of space, contributing to missions that sent the first U.S. satellite into orbit.

Despite facing numerous challenges, including budget constraints and technical hurdles, Sir William Pickering’s visionary leadership and dedication propelled the U.S. space program forward, laying the groundwork for historic achievements such as the Voyager missions to the outer planets.

11. Anna Paquin

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: Somewhere In Toronto

Anna Paquin is an Oscar-winning actress. She is one of the most famous people from New Zealand in the field of acting. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 11 for her role in ‘The Piano,’ making her the second-youngest winner in Oscar history. She has continued to build a distinguished career in film and television, including a prominent role in the ‘True Blood’ series.

12. Sir Howard Morrison

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand
Source: Massey News

Sir Howard Morrison was a beloved entertainer and a cultural icon in New Zealand. His music and charismatic performances bridged cultural gaps and promoted Maori culture throughout the country and internationally.

Beyond his musical achievements, he was also a respected community leader and advocate. He used his platform to address social issues and champion causes that were important to him, such as education and the well-being of Maori communities. His leadership and advocacy left a lasting impact on New Zealand society, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.

13. Katherine Mansfield

13 Most Famous People from New Zealand

Katherine Mansfield is a seminal figure in New Zealand’s literary history, known for her modernist short stories that capture the complexities of human relationships. Her writings, though brief in her life, left a lasting impact on the literary world. Her works, like ‘The Garden Party’ and ‘Prelude,’ are celebrated for their psychological depth and narrative innovation.

Famous People from New Zealand Recognised

Each famous person from New Zealand has contributed uniquely to their fields, bringing pride and recognition to their nation on a global scale. Through their achievements, these famous people from New Zealand continue to inspire and impact people around the world, affirming New Zealand’s significant place on the international stage. If you enjoyed this article on the most famous people from New Zealand, I am sure you will love exploring the following topics too: