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Video: The unusual career of Dr Charles Knight

Dr Knight was our longest-serving auditor-general, and how he got the job was not what you'd expect.

This video file is 10.7MB in size, and is 2 minutes and 46 seconds long.

Transcript of this video

Charles Knight is New Zealand’s first and longest-serving Auditor-General. Dr Knight was born in Sussex, England, in 1808.

When he grew up, he studied medicine and became a doctor. Then he travelled to the United States and became a surgeon. That’s when he was hired to be the surgeon on the ship Lord Glenelg that took Sir George Grey from London to Adelaide.

Sir George Grey was many things – he was an explorer, a writer, and a soldier. But of all the things he did he loved being a governor the most – he was governor of New Zealand twice! He was also governor of South Australia and Cape Colony (South Africa). Sir George was also the 11th Premier of New Zealand.

So back to the boat – Dr Knight was busy being a surgeon on the boat when suddenly there was chaos on the top deck. The captain was drunk and he could barely stand up! Dr Knight wrestled the captain to the ground and locked him up, and then he steered the ship all the way across the Great Australian Bight.

Sir George was super impressed with Dr Knight and he offered him a job as a copying clerk. Dr Knight was so good at being a copying clerk that Sir George moved him into his private secretary’s office. Sir George and Dr Knight became best friends forever. They both loved exploring and they often went out on adventures together.

Dr Knight loved plants and fungi. He used to study them before he had his breakfast in the morning. He was also really into astrology and philosophy.

In November 1845, Sir George became governor of New Zealand. He bought his best bud Dr Knight to New Zealand with him and appointed him New Zealand’s first auditor-general.

Dr Knight was our longest-serving auditor-general. In 1856, he was appointed to manage the Colonial Bank of Issue. But in 1858 he became auditor-general again. He retired in 1878. That’s a long time to be auditor-general! These days an auditor-general spends seven years in office.

Dr Knight is known for being really thorough and exact. Sir George said he was “cheerful and unwearying” when working with numbers.

Dr Knight died in Wellington in 1891, aged 83. He’s buried in Bolton Street Cemetery.

September 2012