Chief Constable Benjamin Woods

Our first policeman

Benjamn Woods was the first law enforcement officer appointed in New Zealand. He was tasked with the job by Governor William Hobson in January 1840.

Benjamin Woods was born in Ireland in 1793, where he became a district head constable and clerk of the court in various areas.

In July 1839, together with his wife Ann, he departed from Waterford, Ireland on the ship China,bound for Sydney, Australia via the Cape of Good Hope. They arrived in Sydney on 20 December 1839.

He arrived in the Bay of Islands on the ship Westminsteron 17 march 1840. He joined Lieutenant Governor Hobson’s staff as chief constable in Kororareka (now Russell). Into this rough place he instilled a semblance of law and order, supported by six constables and members of the 99thRegiment.

Woods was directly involved in the events which culminated in the felling of the British flagstaff at Kororareka by Hone Heke, and the subseqent evacuation of the town in March 1845. He then acted as the chief constable in Auckland, working from the Victoria Street gaol.

Woods returned to Kororareka in 1846, but in July 1853 he shifted back permanently to Auckland with his family. He served as bailiff to the magistrate’s court until March 1860 when he retired on pension.

He died on 6 November 1867, aged 74 years. His wife Ann died in 1870 aged 82.

Benjamin Woods is buried in the Symonds Street Cemetery. He was remembered at the centennial of the New Zealand Police in 1986, when a memorial was dedicated to him.

  • <p>Hone Heke chops down the flagstaff at Kororareke, an incident which happened when Constable Woods was stationed there. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library A-004-037</p>
  • <p>Kororareka (now Russell) at the time Constable Woods was stationed there. Painting by Thomas Gardiner c1856, Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand 1993-0029-1.</p>

Benjamin Woods on Anglican Memorial