Final Approaches: A Memoir

Gerald Hensley

‘This is a superb memoir . . . . It is bound to intrigue and inform anyone interested in the shaping of New Zealand foreign policy in the later years of the 20th century.’ – Bruce Harding, The Press


Final Approaches is a memoir by a distinguished senior civil servant, written in a tradition of wit, elegance, learning and intelligence more familiar in Europe than in our own literary history.

In a career that engaged with international and national dramas at every turn Hensley writes not about himself but about people, the famous and the forgotten; places, from Apia to Singapore to New York; political events, including two coups, one war, one peaceful attainment of independence, several false alarms. His unerring eye for the comic and the absurd is matched always by his insight and good judgement so that we gain an extraordinary view of New Zealand’s changing place in the world over three decades while being constantly gripped and entertained. A treat for anyone interested in politics or foreign affairs – or good writing.



Gerald Hensley joined the then Department of External Affairs in 1958 and served in Samoa, at the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, and in 1965 was the appointed to the newly established Commonwealth Secretariat in London. He was then appointed as counsellor at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington. From 1976 until 1980 he was New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Singapore before returning to Wellington to become Head of the Prime Minister’s Department where he served under both the Muldoon and Lange administrations. In 1989 he was invited to become a Fellow at the Centre of International Affairs at Harvard University and in 1991 he became Secretary of Defence and served in that role until September 1999 when he retired and was honoured with the CNZM. In 2000 he chaired the Commonwealth Eminent Persons’ Group which advised the Papua New Guinea Government on the reconstruction of its armed forces. From 2001 until 2007 he was President of the Asthma Foundation. He has published numerous articles on East Asian and Pacific Affairs and his book Beyond the Battlefield was a finalist in the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards. Gerald Hensley lives on a vineyard in Martinborough.


October 2006, 228 x 154 mm, 312 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403782, $49.99