Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

HENRY, Sir David

(1888–1963).

Company director.

A new biography of Henry, David appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

David Henry was born at Juniper Green, Midlothian, Scotland, on 24 November 1888, the son of Robert Henry, a builder and stonemason, and Agnes, née Stevenson. After being educated at Heriot-Watt College, Edinburgh, he served his apprenticeship in the papermaking business at the Kinleith mill on the Water of Leith in Scotland. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1907 and became associated with the sheetmetal and exotic timber industries, first as a commercial traveller and, latterly, as a company director. In 1920 Henry and his brother-in-law moved to Auckland from Christchurch, where they had started an engineering business, and founded the sheetmetal firm of D. Henry and Co. Ltd. at Freemans Bay. In 1934, following the Government inquiry into the south Waikato afforestation promotion schemes, Henry emerged as one of the first directors of New Zealand Forest Products Ltd., the company formed to protect private investors' interests. He became chairman of directors in 1936 and managing director two years later. In this connection he had the difficult task of negotiating the complicated financial settlement with New Zealand Perpetual Forests Ltd., the company which had originally been interested in the afforestation schemes. After these negotiations were concluded, Henry studied the economics of timber utilisation and arranged his company's capital to ensure that sufficient money would be available for establishing forest industries and undertaking the necessary research. He visited similar industries overseas to investigate manufacturing and marketing problems in British, North American, and Scandinavian pulp and paper mills. He also arranged for a trial shipment of logs from Atiamuri to be tested and processed in a Swedish fibreboard mill. These tests proved the suitability of New Zealand radiata pine for wallboard. In addition to solving these technical problems, Henry fought a protracted battle with politicians and Government Departments for licences to import the necessary heavy machinery and to obtain the rights to establish the new industries. In 1941 the company opened its first wall-board factory in Penrose, Auckland. By the end of 1952 he was able to tell his 53,000 shareholders that the company had successfully weathered its worst pioneering problems and that, for the first time in its history, the investors would receive a dividend. In 1954 Henry received a knighthood for his services towards establishing the exotic forest industries in New Zealand. Since 1948, when the company began its large-scale timber exploitation based on the Kinleith mill, New Zealand Forest Products Ltd. has become one of the largest industrial concerns in New Zealand, with forest areas totalling 250,000 acres and assets estimated to be worth £26 million. The town of Tokoroa, where the company's headquarters are located, is largely a monument to Henry's enterprise.

On 28 April 1915, at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Claudelands, Hamilton, Henry married Mary Castleton Osborne (who died 3 March 1953), daughter of Thomas Osborne. At the same church, on 24 November 1955, he married Dorothy May Osborne, who was his first wife's sister. There was one daughter by his first marriage. Sir David died at 23 Stilwell Road, Mount Albert, Auckland, on 20 August 1963.

In 1956 Sir David endowed the David Henry Scholarship for forestry students, the first award being made the following year. He has also created a substantial trust in favour of the Auckland Presbyterian Orphanages and Social Services Association.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Forestry News, Vol. 13, Sep 1963 (Obit)
  • New Zealand Herald, 21 Aug 1963 (Obit)
  • Dominion, 21 Aug 1963 (Obit).


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This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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