Michael Cullen (politician)

New Zealand politician and academic

Sir Michael John Cullen KNZM (5 February 1945 – 19 August 2021) was a British-born New Zealand Labour politician and historian. He held key job positions during the Helen Clark cabinet such as Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2002 to 2008.

Cullen in 2008

Early life


Cullen was born in London. His family emigrated to New Zealand in 1955 where he was raised in Christchurch. He studied at the University of Canterbury and University of Edinburgh.

From 1971 to 1981 he was a lecturer at the University of Otago, with a term as a visiting fellow at the Australian National University from 1975 to 1976.[1]


Cullen in 2007

In 1981, he was elected to the New Zealand Parliament.

He was Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2002 to 2008 during the Helen Clark cabinet. He was also Minister of Finance from 1999 to 2008 and Attorney-General in 2005 and again from 2006 to 2008.

He was the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1996 until November 2008, when he resigned following a defeat in the general election.

He resigned from Parliament in April 2009, to become the deputy chairman of New Zealand Post from 1 November 2009[2] and chairman from 1 November 2010. He left the position in 2016.

Cullen identifies as a social democrat.[3]

Personal life


In 1967, he married Rowena Joy Knight. They divorced in 1989. That same year, he married then-MP Anne Fraser.

Cullen became a naturalized New Zealand citizen in 1975. In 2012, Cullen was appointed Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.[4]

In March 2020, Cullen was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer which had spread to his liver.[5] He died from the disease on 19 August 2021 in Whakatāne, New Zealand at the age of 76.[6]


  1. "Hon Dr Michael Cullen". New Zealand Parliament. Archived from the original on 1 November 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2007.
  2. "Cullen leaves politics for NZ Post role". The New Zealand Herald. 7 April 2009.
  3. Cullen, Michael (10 December 2012). "The Political Economy of Long Term Fiscal planning from a Social Democratic Perspective" (PDF). Affording Our Future Conference. Retrieved 20 May 2019.[permanent dead link]
  4. "The Queen's Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours List 2012". New Zealand Honours Lists. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  5. "Sir Michael Cullen resigns from roles due to stage-four lung cancer". RNZ News. 6 March 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  6. "Labour's Sir Michael Cullen dies at 76 after battle with lung cancer". The New Zealand Herald. 19 August 2021. Retrieved 20 August 2021.